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Children With Brain Injuries at Higher Risk of Depression, Study Finds

By guest blogger Gina Cairney

Concussions and sports-related head injuries have negative consequences on youth health, but the prevalence of psychological disorders, especially depression, among children who suffered a brain injury is not well known.

In a yet-to-be published paper, presented at a national American Academy of Pediatrics conference in Orlando, Fla., last month, researchers looked at ways to identify the prevalence of depression in children with brain injuries in the United States.

Taking data from the 2007 National Survey of Children's Health, over 2,000 children with brain injuries were identified, as well as more than over 3,100 children with diagnosed depression. The percentages of students identified for the groups mirrored,in respective order, that year's brain-injury rate of 1.9 percent, and the 3.7 child-depression rate.

Fifteen percent of children with brain injuries or concussions were also diagnosed with depression—a 4.9-fold increase in the likelihood of diagnosed depression.

After adjusting for known predictors of depression in children, like poor physical health, Dr. Matthew C. Wylie, the author of the paper, said in a statement that "depression remained two times more likely in children with brain injury or concussion."

This is the largest study to look at the association between brain injury and depression in children and adolescents, and Dr. Wylie suggests the study's findings may improve how children with brain injuries are identified and treated for depression.

Amid all the attention lately on the dangers of concussions, football has also been in the news, but not in the way football lovers may like.

A children's hospital in Cincinnati reported an increase in the number of emergency-room visits for sports-related brain injuries; and a recent poll found that one in three Americans were concerned with youth-football-related injuries.

Many states have implemented concussion laws as a way to address the issue. Frontline PBS even aired a documentary last month, "League of Denial," about the NFL's handling of head injuries and concussions among its players.

All the coverage on concussions and the impact of sports-related injuries is no doubt casting a cloud on this staple of American culture, and the effects the coverage may have on the game in the future. Does the game need to change, and can it survive those changes?

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