Concussions May Increase Suicide Risk

Concussions May Increase Suicide RiskConcussions May Increase Suicide Risk

The risks of suffering a concussion have been under the spotlight in recent years, especially as the degenerative neurological illness known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) has been found in multiple football players after their deaths. The degenerative disease is believed to be linked to brain trauma, including concussions.

Now, a new study has found that concussions may also be associated with an increase in the long-term risk of suicide. Experts have long known that a severe, traumatic brain injury raises the risk of suicide, but this study sheds more light on how concussions, a common mild head injury, may impact overall suicide risk.

The study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, looked at the long-term risk of someone committing suicide if they have ever suffered a concussion, ABC News reported.

The suicide rate in Ontario, Canada, where the study was conducted, is approximately nine per 100,000 people, according to the study. In the US as a whole, it’s about 12 per 100,000 people, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study conducted in Ontario gathered information on 235,110 individuals who had a history of concussion over a 20-year period, from 1992 to 2012. In the group there were 667 subsequent suicides -- equivalent to 31 deaths per 100,000 people, or three times the suicide rate in the entire population, researchers found.

Concussions are usually caused by a bump or blow to the head, briefly disrupting brain function. Concussions do not always cause a loss of consciousness. Concussions are considered to be a mild form of brain injury and are the most common type of mild brain injury occurring in young adults.

The study also finds that each additional concussion is associated with a further increase in suicide risk.

Dr. Donald Redelmeier, professor of medicine at the University of Toronto and a lead researcher in the study, said the findings emphasize that it’s important for medical providers to be aware of a patient’s concussion history.

“Mild concussions, although invisible at the time of the incident, could be dangerous later on,” Redelmeier said. “It is important that even years after a concussion, not to forget about it and to inform your doctor of your history.”