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New Study: Concussions Linked to Higher Risks for Mental Health Issues

By: Allan M. Siegel

While many people are aware, to some degree, that brain injuries can cause serious physical symptoms – from loss of consciousness, vomiting, nausea, and ringing in the ears to headaches, migraines, hearing and vision problems, seizures, and more – few know how they can also affect a person’s emotional well-being.

That lack of insight isn’t just common among people who’ve never experienced TBI or been close to someone who has; it’s also been pervasive within the medical community. Even with the most amazing advancements, much of the human brain remains a mystery to modern science. Likewise, how brain injuries can affect victims’ psychological and emotional health is also something scientists have long been struggling to fully understand.

The many mysteries of the human mind and a lack of understanding as to how traumatic injuries affect it were a large reason behind a study from researchers at UC San Diego. These researchers recently set out to determine whether mental health problems can accompany even “mild” traumatic brain injuries.

About the Study: TBI & Higher Risks for Depression, PTSD

According to research supported by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S Department of Defense, there is evidence to suggest that individuals who suffer even mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI) can experience mental health issues.

The study, published in Jama Psychiatry, focused on depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and incidence rates for those problems among patients who suffered mTBI, a classification of brain injuries that also includes concussions. Here are some key points about the study:

  • Researchers evaluated over 1,150 patients who experienced mild traumatic brain injuries and roughly 230 patients with non-head injuries, including orthopedic injuries such as broken bones, who were treated at 11 hospital trauma centers across the U.S. between 2014 and 2016.
  • Of the study’s participants, nearly 62% percent sustained their brain injuries as a result of car accidents and motor vehicle collisions, nearly a third due to slips and falls or other unintentional injuries, 6% as a result of violent assaults, and 3% due to unspecified causes.
  • All patients were evaluated shortly after being treated at the hospital, and intermittently during their recovery at two weeks after initial treatment, three months post-injury, and six and 12 months after injury. At each stage, patients’ mental health was assessed using self-reported surveys, which allowed patients to discuss any symptoms relating to depression and PTSD.

What researchers found was that patients who did experienced an mTBI were more likely to report major depressive symptoms and signs of PTSD three and six months after injury than those who did not suffer a head injury.

  • 20% of the mTBI patients reported PTSD / depression symptoms at 3 and 6 months after their injuries, as compared to just 8% of patients with non-head injuries who reported such symptoms.
  • While 1 in 5 patients with brain injuries reported mental health issues at the three-month assessment, that number rose to a little more than 21% at the six-month mark.
  • Researchers noted pre-existing mental health issues were an exceptionally strong risk factor for experiencing issues of PTSD and depression after a brain injury. Other risk factors included lower education levels, head injuries resulting from violent assaults, and certain race-based factors.

What the Study Tells Us

Medical experts have long associated increased risks for mental health issues with traumatic brain injuries, but many of those studies have been limited to victims who suffered severe or even moderate traumatic brain injuries. This particular study, which does note limitations in the form of subjective feedback and an inability to generalize findings across all victims, ultimately supports the notion that even mild TBI, including concussions, can be linked to greater risks of mental health problems.

While the study may not necessarily be earth shattering, it does help highlight the common misconception that only victims of the most severe forms of TBI suffer from various long-term and far-reaching consequences of their injuries. That misconception is based largely on the misbelief “severe” or “mild” classification terms speak to the symptoms and effects of brain injuries.

In reality, those classifications describe only the severity of initial trauma victims sustain. Just because a person experienced a mild traumatic brain injury, for example, does not mean they’re exempt from the many physical, behavioral, and psychological repercussions which can accompany these injuries. In some cases, victims with TBI classified as “mild” can experience far more adverse effects than those with “moderate” or even “severe” TBI. Additionally, victims who don’t actually suffer blunt force trauma to the head can still suffer brain injuries and its many effects. It’s why some victims who experience “whiplash” in auto accidents are sometimes diagnosed with concussions.

Ultimately, the study serves to remind us all of a few important things:

  1. Brain injuries are unpredictable, and they can affect victims in many different ways.
  2. There are in fact risks of depression, PTSD, and other mental health issues among those who suffer concussions or mild TBI.
  3. Health care providers can provide better and more comprehensive care by addressing all the potential ramifications of brain injuries among their patients, including their psychological symptoms.
  4. Victims who suffer any head injury, be it a concussion, mild TBI, or severe brain injury, should always seek medical treatment so as to address all of the problems they experience.

As a personal injury firm which has focused a large part of our practice to representing victims following traumatic brain injuries, Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. is well aware of the profound and sometimes permanent repercussions of TBI. Aside from assessing the physical symptoms victims may experience, we make sure to closely evaluate how brain injuries affect their emotional and psychological health, as well as their ability to live and maintain a quality of life they once enjoyed prior to their injuries. By addressing these far-reaching consequences, we’re able to show how substantially brain injuries affect our clients, and are better able to position them for the full financial recoveries they need.

If you have questions about any form of traumatic brain injury, including a concussion, and what rights you may have when seeking justice and compensation for your losses in a civil personal injury lawsuit, our firm is readily available to help. Call { F:P:Site:Phone} or contact us online to request a free review of your case.