Between one and two million children will receive a concussion each year in the United States during sports and other recreational activities.
A large new study suggests those children can face a higher risk of developing mental health problems. It’s important to understand that a concussion is a brain injury.
While most children who suffer a concussion fully recover with time, there can be a lingering impact for some. The new research is highlighting the importance of taking concussions seriously.
“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,” Dr. Kelly McNally, with Nationwide Children’s Complex Concussion Clinic, said.
A Canadian study published in JAMA Network examined records over a 10-year period of kids between the ages of 5 and 18 who had a concussion or orthopedic injury. None had a mental health diagnosis before being hurt.
Researchers found that those with concussions had a 40% increased risk of developing a mental health issue compared with children the same age and sex with an orthopedic injury.
Those who had a concussion also had an increased risk of self-harming and being hospitalized for a psychiatric problem. McNally said parents should be aware of these possibilities.
“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 they’re feeling. How are they doing emotionally? How are they coping?” McNally said. “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 get the right help for their children, if they are seeing mental health symptoms after something like a concussion.”
If you spot any red flags, such as mood changes, being withdrawn, or if your child isn’t enjoying activities they once did, talk to your child’s doctor right away. Many issues can be treated more quickly and easily when they’re identified earlier.
Researchers said it’s very important to get children back to their normal routines as soon as it’s safe. Those activities and a sense of belonging are important for their mental health.