How concussions can alter teens' behaviour

Teens who have suffered a concussion or other traumatic brain injury report higher rates of harmful behaviours, and the finding is particularly evident among girls, a new study suggests.

Doctors, schools, parents and coaches need to be vigilant in monitoring adolescents with concussions

 A new study has found that teens who have suffered a concussion or other traumatic brain injury report higher rates of harmful behaviours and the finding is particularly evident among girls.

The Canadian study looked at 13 harmful health behaviours that included contemplating suicide, smoking marijuana and binge drinking among almost 9,300 Ontario students in Grades 7 to 12.

Parents, clinicians, teachers and coaches need to take all brain injuries, including concussions, seriously because their effects can affect students' formative years, says neuropsychologist Gabriela Ilie. (St. Michael's Hopsital/Canadian Press)

Teens who had a history of brain trauma were more likely than their uninjured peers to engage in a variety of harmful behaviours, but females were found to engage in more than their male counterparts.

The research showed girls after a brain injury were more likely than boys to have smoked cigarettes, been bullied, contemplated suicide or experienced greater psychological distress.

Lead author Dr. Gabriela Ilie of St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto says the behavioural gap may be due to the underlying biological and social differences between girls and boys.

Researchers define a traumatic brain injury as any blow to the head that resulted in loss of consciousness for at least five minutes or spending at least one night in hospital.

"Parents, clinicians, teachers and coaches need to take all brain injuries, including concussions, seriously because their effects can affect students' formative years," said Ilie, a neuropsychologist.

Doctors, schools, parents and coaches need to be vigilant in monitoring adolescents with a concussion or other brain injury as they can exacerbate mental health and behavioural issues, she stressed.

The study is published in the online journal PLOS ONE.