A study conducted in Ontario has found that concussions may be associated with an increase in the long-term risk of suicide.
It was previously understood that severe, traumatic brain injuries raise the risk of suicide, but this new study investigated how a concussion – considered by many to be a mild head injury – may affect overall suicide risk.
The study gathered information from 235,110 individuals who were diagnosed with concussions (excluding those with ‘serious’ cases that required a hospital stay) between 1992 and 2012. Of the group, there were 667 subsequent suicides, equivalent to 31 deaths for every 100,000 people.
In Canada there is a nine in 100,000 suicide risk for the general population – making those who suffered a concussion in the study three times more likely to end their own life.
Of the individuals studied, just over half were men; the mean age was 41 and there was a median delay of six years between the concussions and the suicide.
About half of those who killed themselves had seen a doctor in the last week of their lives.
The research also suggested that the increased long-term risk of suicide was more common among those who suffered a concussion at the weekend.
The study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal on Monday, doesn’t prove that concussions actually cause a person to become suicidal, nor should the findings promote fear-mongering among victims.
But it’s certainly a link that we should pay attention to and learn from. If you’re struggling to cope and you’ve suffered from concussion in the past, don’t ignore the way you’re feeling – seek help from a medical professional.
Will Smith’s latest movie, Concussion, sees him play Nigerian pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu, who fought against the efforts by the NFL to supress his research on brain damage suffered by professional football players.
Dr. Gabriela Ilie, a post-doctoral fellow at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital who studies traumatic brain injuries, told the Globe and Mail that “it’s not okay for us to watch others be injured in the name of sports and entertainment”.
She added that we shouldn’t be surprised at the correlation and that something should be done.
Dr. Donald Redelmeier, senior author and senior core scientist at Toronto’s Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, said, “If you had an allergic reaction to penicillin 20 years ago, you want to mention that to your doctor.
“If you had a concussion 15 years ago, you might also want that as part of your medical record.”