A recent study published in 2016 by Dr. Aaron Hawkins (University of Alabama Hospital) has found that concussions may increase the risk of suicide. A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that results from a violent blow to the head. They typically accompany a loss of consciousness and include temporary side effects such as: headaches, confusion and a loss of memory, balance and concentration. Individuals who participate in contact sports such as football or hockey are usually subject to these types of injuries, but anyone is susceptible. According to this new report, however, concussions may be even more dangerous than already presumed.
“Mild concussions, although invisible at the time of the incident, could be dangerous later on,” stated Dr. Donald Redelmeier, a lead researcher in Hawkins’ study. Hawkins, Redelmeier and their team of researchers conducted an investigation over a 20-year period (1992-2012) where they examined 235,100 individuals who experienced a concussion(s). The team found that 667 of those individuals subsequently committed suicide. This corresponds to approximately 31 deaths per 100,000 people who experience a concussion - three times the rate of suicide for the general population.
Interestingly enough, these findings come shortly after the American Association for Justice (AAJ) published their December 2015 report, Concussions and the Courthouse. This collection chronicles several decades of concussion and sports-related incidents and how these incidents have impaired cognitive functioning. Fortunately, high-profile lawsuits against school districts, colleges, sports leagues and even the NFL have helped to reform concussion and medical protocols. Furthermore, the AAJ is calling on each of the 50 states to pass laws that improve sporting conditions for minors.
If you know someone who has experienced a concussion, remind them that their doctor should be aware of their medical history. “It is important that even years after a concussion, not to forget about it and to inform your doctor of your history,” says Redelmeier. “If you have had an allergic reaction [to penicillin] in the past, you would let your doctor know about this medication allergy so that you do not have a harmful event in the future. We should think of a concussion history in the same way.”
Hawkins, Redelmeier and their team are hopeful that their findings will encourage doctors and other medical professionals to take a second look at their patients and screen for signs of depression.