Could a Concussion Raise a Teen Athlete's Suicide Risk?

Could a Concussion Raise a Teen Athlete's Suicide Risk?

High school athletes who suffer repeated concussions may be at heightened risk for suicide, University of Texas researchers report.

Data on more than 13,000 high school students revealed that those who had had a concussion in the past year (15%) were more likely to have feelings of depression, suicidal thoughts, and to have planned or attempted suicide.

About 36% of those with concussion said they felt sad or hopeless, compared with 31% of teens overall. Also, 21% had thoughts of suicide, compared with 17% of all teens.

Boys were twice as likely to have attempted suicide and three times more likely to have been treated for doing so than those without a recent concussion, the researchers found.

Girls with a history of concussions were more likely to feel sad or hopeless, have suicidal thoughts, and to have planned or attempted suicide, according to the study. They were also twice as likely to have been treated for a suicide attempt, compared with girls who did not have a concussion in the last year.

"If there is any concern that a child may have suffered a concussion, it is critical to seek medical attention," said lead researcher Dale Mantey, a doctoral student at UTHealth School of Public Health in Austin. "If a child is diagnosed with a concussion, everyone in their support network should look for changes in mood or behavior that may be warning signs of reduced mental well-being."

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among 10- to 34-year-olds in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Warning signs can include talking about feeling hopeless, withdrawing or social isolation, mood swings, and reckless behavior.

"Concussions are a traumatic brain injury and they are even worse for young people with developing brains," said study senior author Steven Kelder, a professor in spirituality and healing at UTHealth.
"These injuries can have long-term effects such as memory issues and sleep disturbances," he said in a university news release.

The report was published in the November issue of the Journal of Affective Disorders.

Source: University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, news release, Nov. 25, 2019.

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