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Your Healthy Family: Study finds link between concussions and kids' mental health

Posted at 8:55 AM, Mar 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-18 08:55:14-04

A new study shows there could be a link between concussions and kids' mental health.

"Some of the primary symptoms after a concussion can include things like changes in mood, anxious thoughts, changes in behavior, irritability, that sort of thing," Kelly McNally, the Co-Director of the Complex Concussion Clinic at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, said.

The Canadian study, published in JAMA Network Open, looked through records between 2010 and 2020, of kids ages 5-18 who had a concussion or orthopedic injury. None had a mental health diagnosis before being hurt. Researchers found kids who had a concussion had a 40 percent increased risk of developing a mental health issue, compared to kids the same age and sex who had an orthopedic injury. Children with concussions also had an increased risk of self harm and psychiatric hospitalization.

McNally said parents need to be aware.

"I think a primary thing for parents to do is just to keep that conversation rolling with their children. So if they have had an injury, ask them how are they feeling? how are they doing emotionally? how are they coping?” she said.

If you notice red flags like changes in mood, being withdrawn, or not enjoying activities they once did, McNally said get help.

“We don't want parents to be afraid for their children to play sports, but it does provide information to parents to help empower them to help get the right help for their children if they are seeing mental health symptoms after something like a concussion," she said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said close to 7 percent of kids age 17 and under have had symptoms of a concussion or brain injury.