Don’t Underestimate the Impact of Concussions

concussion suicide

By Debbie Gregory.

After any type of brain injury, there are a number of challenges during the recovery process. Scientists have known for a long time that suicide and brain injury are linked, but the actual number of people who have had a brain injury that have committed suicide wasn’t explored.

A new study conducted by a team of Canadian researchers, headed up by Dr. Donald Redelmeier, has found that the long term risk of suicide increases three-fold among adults who have had concussions.

Recently published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the results reflect a study that concentrated on ordinary people who had concussions but did not sustain severe brain injury. The researchers explored official death certificates that listed suicide as the cause of death, and then examined the person’s medical history over 20 years.

Their research revealed a suicide rate of 31 deaths per 100,000, which is three times the norm. Each additional concussion raised the suicide risk.

“Multiple concussions can be cumulative, and that’s where the more significant deficits occur,” according to Gary Pace, the director of the May Center for Education and Neuro-rehabilitation. “We do know now that as a result of multiple concussions, the brain becomes more vulnerable to more long-term kinds of brain injuries, which results in some of the depression we see in individuals.”

“The magnitude of the increased risk surprised me,” said Dr. Redelmeier, a practicing physician and professor of medicine.

Although research often focuses on traumatic brain injuries rather than smaller, milder concussions, concussions can lead to depression and anxiety.

Redelmeier feels that people who have sustained concussions should give themselves time to recover, and remember that their head injury, no matter how mild, is an important part of their medical history.

Additionally, it is very important for anyone who has experienced a concussion to be immediately informed about all potential problems associated with concussions — which include possible depression and suicidal thoughts — and to be encouraged to speak up immediately when he or she experiences a problem.

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