Depression Another Possible Side Effect of Head Injuries

Editor's note: This is the second of a two-part series on concussions and student athletes at Branford High School. Part one of the series can be found here.

By Kyle Kenney

BHS student Adam Gallagher suffered a severe concussion at the end of his freshman year football season from a helmet to helmet hit that put him out of commission for two weeks. The injury affected more than his head though.

“I felt myself being easily annoyed and extremely irritable,” Gallagher said. “I found myself snapping at my family and friends. I didn’t even have the strength to focus on simple tasks at hand. For example, even sending out a text was a struggle.”

At Branford High, many students like Adam may be prone to head injuries such as  a concussion, either from playing a sport, from other out of school events or even accidental head-bumping. Students who have suffered head injuries may also experience feelings of depression and other mood altering problems, with the possibility that the head incidents caused it, experts say.

Numerous side effects to head injuries, studies show

According to HealthDay, studies have shown “that children and teenagers who'd ever sustained a brain injury were much more likely to have ever been diagnosed with depression.” HealthDay also stated that “ 15 percent had received that diagnosis, while the national prevalence was less than 4 percent.”

Head injury is a severe problem in itself. It is a common injury for those 18 and under to experience concussions and other head injuries. Many of them treat the injury as any other with rest and time to heal, but are they taking enough time to fully heal their injury?

Concussion policy at BHS in place to deal with head injuries

BHS deals with concussions very severely. Athletes who have experienced a concussion during a sports season, must pass a variety of mental tests called the “Impact Testing” and then go through a physical three-day testing with the athletic trainer to see if all symptoms are gone and they can return to the playing field. In the classroom, students are given time off to heal the injury until they can participate in class and class work without being drastically affected by the injury.

BHS takes these injuries very seriously because they understand what can happen if these injuries aren’t properly treated, school officials said.

Read about the Impact Testing and concussion policy at BHS here.

The injuries may seem very minor at the time, but there’s a chance that these minor injuries can be the lead to many long term mental health issue’s. BHS student and dance team member Maisy Larancoulang commented, “Ever since my concussion almost two years ago,  I have noticed that I get stressed out way more easy and also that I get feelings of anxiety and depression over things that are unnecessary. For example, if I get into little arguments with my parents I feel overwhelmed at times.”

The extent of head injuries and depression among youth is documented in studies from HealthDay, which show the results from a 2007 survey of 82,000 children under the age of 18. “Just over 2,000 parents said their child had ever been diagnosed with a ‘brain injury or concussion,’ and just over 3,100 said their child had ever been diagnosed with depression -- for a national rate of 3.7 percent. Among kids with a past head injury, however, the rate of depression was about four times higher, at 15 percent,” according to the survey.

It is unclear how the head injuries and depression are related but some have their own opinions on the situation. Keith Yeates who is a pediatric neuropsychologist stated, “One possibility is that there are alterations to the brain structure in areas associated with mood regulation, there could also be indirect links. If a brain injury is serious enough to hinder a child's functioning and ability to socialize with friends, that could lead to depression."