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Lingering mental health problems linked to head injury

By Tauren Dyson
More than 21 percent of people who suffer a mild traumatic brain injury, or mTBI, could have mental health symptoms up to six months after the episode. Photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathon Fowler/U.S. Air Force
More than 21 percent of people who suffer a mild traumatic brain injury, or mTBI, could have mental health symptoms up to six months after the episode. Photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathon Fowler/U.S. Air Force

Jan. 30 (UPI) -- If a person has recently suffered a concussion, chances are its effects are going to linger for awhile.

More than 21 percent of people who suffer a mild traumatic brain injury, or mTBI, could have mental health-related symptoms up to six months after the episode, according to a study published Wednesday in JAMA Psychiatry.

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Additionally, about 20 percent of people with mTBI continue to experience symptoms three months after a traumatic event.

"Mental health disorders after concussion have been studied primarily in military populations, and not much is known about these outcomes in civilians," said Patrick Bellgowan, who runs the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, in a news release. "These results may help guide follow-up care and suggest that doctors may need to pay particular attention to the mental state of patients many months after injury."

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Black people, those with a history of mental illness and who have lower education levels have a risk of having mental health symptoms long after a traumatic event.

"Contrary to common assumptions, mild head injuries can cause long-term effects. These findings suggest that follow-up care after head injury, even for mild cases, is crucial, especially for patients showing risk factors for PTSD or depression," said Dr. Murray B. Stein, a professor at the University of California, San Diego.

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However, mental health symptoms were not connected to loss of consciousness or post-traumatic amnesia.

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"TRACK-TBI is overturning many of our long-held beliefs around mTBI, particularly in what happens with patients after they leave the emergency department. We are seeing more evidence about the need to monitor these individuals for many months after their injury to help them achieve the best recovery possible," said Geoff Manley, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, and study senior author.

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