Emotional symptoms like anxiety and depression have been associated with concussions and traumatic brain injuries for years, but brain injuries are far from heterogeneous.
While some brain injury victims experience chronic headaches or nausea, others experience depression or irritability, and others experience a combination of these and other symptoms. But, a new study may give insight into identifying which brain injury patients are likely to exhibit which symptoms.
Specifically, the study, scheduled to be presented today at the Sports Concussion Conference hosted by the American Academy of Neurology, finds that teens who are sensitive to light or noise after a concussion are more likely to develop emotional symptoms.
“Identifying factors such as these that may exacerbate issues teens experience after concussion may help in planning for the appropriate treatment and in making decisions about when to return to play and what accommodations are needed at school for these athletes,” study authors Lisa Koehl and Dong Han, of the University of Kentucky in Lexington, said in an American Academy of Neurology news release.
“While most people recover from a concussion within a week, a number of factors affect people’s recovery, and studies have shown that teenage athletes may take up to seven to 10 days longer to recover than older athletes,” the study authors said.
The study evaluated nearly 40 young athletes between the ages of 12 and 17. On average the teens experienced symptoms for 37 days after suffering a concussion. Out of all participants, 22 experienced emotional symptoms such as anxiety, apathy, aggression, irritability, frequent mood swings, or excessive emotional reactions.
The assessment saw that there were no differences between those with and without emotional symptoms in terms of the percentage who lost consciousness or experienced memory loss, which indicates both groups had similar levels of concussion severity.
From those who experienced emotional symptoms, 23 percent were sensitive to light and 14 percent were sensitive to noise, compared with 13 percent and zero, respectively, of the teens with no emotional symptoms.
Teens with anxiety were also 55 percent more likely to report attention problems than those without anxiety, and teens who showed aggression or irritability were 35 percent more likely to report attention problems.