Do Concussions Lead to Long-Term Depression and Anxiety?

The results of a study executed by the Center of Disease Control state that “TBI [Traumatic Brain Injury] is a contributing factor to a third (30%) of all injury-related deaths in the United States..”. Concussions are growing to be a major problem in North America, with much focus directed onto head trauma and the long term effects that come with them afterward. Depression and anxiety are such two long term effects resulting from concussions. A concussion occurs when a person experiences a hard blow or direct hit to the head, resulting in having various symptoms, with age and gender playing a role in determining the severity of them.

Depression and anxiety are two long-term effects resulting from concussions. Though there is a missing link on whether concussions lead to long-term diseases, it is true that long-term effects such as depression and anxiety are results of earlier concussions.

The term “concussion” does not mean only the initial point of injury. It encompasses the initial point of injury, the extensive recovery period afterwards and until you finish experiencing the symptoms resulting from a concussion.

A concussion occurs when your brain is directly hit. The swollen blood vessels located within your brain and brain tissue move around, pushing the tissue against the skull and outer edges of the brain. Resulting from having a concussion, there are many different symptoms that one can experience. The symptoms vary, of vision changes to confusion to severe memory loss. Some symptoms become present very quickly after the incident, but others gradually build up over the years, such as memory loss, anxiety and depression.

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Thus, it is true that two long-term effects of concussions such as depression and anxiety, since they gradually build up over a long period of time.

The results of concussions in teens and young adults compared to older adults are staggering. Many studies show that younger people have more concussions than adults by far. Though there has not been a determined cause[s], the simple fact of the age of a person can determine whether a person has a concussion. According to Julian Bailes, a neurologist for West Virginia University, says that “the immature brain is still developing. That makes it more susceptible to damage and more likely suffer repetitive injury”. A brain that is not fully developed does not have the brain tissue built up, meaning that there is less protection inside the brain. Having a concussion when a person is younger increases the chance for having more concussions in the future, leading to second impact syndrome, which can increase your risk for having another concussion, meaning longer recovery time and isolation away from everyone else. A longer recovery time alone will most likely increase chances of depression, since there is limited human contact.

Children are now having to undergo a longer recovery period than youth in previous years. A longer recovery time means being separated from their peers for a longer time. Dr. Christopher C. Giza, a professor at the University of California Los Angeles specializing in pediatric neurology, says that increasing long-term recovery periods do more harm than good. Dr. Giza states, “..the evidence shows that extending that can be detrimental… with kids developing anxiety symptoms about their schoolwork, or depression from being completely deprived of contact with friends — which may be wrongly attributed to the head trauma.’ (Klass par. 11). Giza believes that being isolated from the surrounding people increases a person’s feelings of sadness and loneliness, leading to depression and anxiety. And, if youth and young adults are having concussions earlier and more often in their lives, than that explains why depression and anxiety are common long-term effects of a concussion.

As for why women have concussions more often than men has not been determined. Dr. Zachary Kerr, assistant professor at the University of North Carolina of sport science,says that “there are…different theories…about why concussions are higher in women than in men, but we don’t really know why…” (Collins par. 10). More focus is directed towards males, since there are a higher percentage of male football players than women. Thus, women are “often an unseen part of the concussion story even though they suffer more concussions than males, have more severe symptoms and are slower to recover,” according to Bob Roehr, reporter for Scientific American (Roehr par. 1). Being isolated from society for a long period increases the feelings of loneliness and sadness, leading to increased feelings of depression and anxiety.

Various symptoms will vary from person to person at various times; some will experience the typical headaches, minor memory loss and confusion, but not all will symptoms will occur at the same time. More severe concussions usually call for more severe symptoms, but that is not always true. The proper way that doctors diagnose a concussion are by using different tests with scales, with the most common of the four different scales being the Glasgow Coma Scale. As much evidence can be gained from the results of these different tests, there is still not a large amount of information about concussions in young adults and teens. Michael McCrea, neurology professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin, and Dr. Geoff Manley, whom is the vice president of the department of neurological surgeries with the University of California both “praised the CDC for issuing the guidelines, saying that ‘clinicians have been hampered for years by the lack of an evidence base to inform diagnosis, prognosis, and management’ of youth concussions.’”. Lack of knowledge of how to determine a concussion hinders injured people from receiving the appropriate help, since there is little knowledge on how to treat a concussion.

One long term disease known that is developed as a result from a concussion is Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy [CTE]. To be at risk for CTE, a person has to be directly hit in the head several times to develop this long-term disease. There has not been a determined number of times that a person can be hit in the head before developing CTE. Sports players, especially football players, are hit in the head hundreds of times per year, leading to many possible undiagnosed cases of CTE. Kevin Guskiewicz, a neuroscientist at the University of North Carolina, found in a study that ‘the average college football player sustains a breathtaking 950 to 1,100 subconcussive blows per season.” Every hit to the head causes a miniscule, almost unnoticeable amount of brain damage, which adds up after several hits. Due to lack of research on Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, not much information has been gathered

Though the link to all long term diseases as a result from concussions is still unclear, research has shown, however, that concussions may be a potential link to Parkinson’s Disease. Dr. Raquel C. Gardner, assistant professor at University of California San Francisco states that “We don’t have brain autopsies, so we don’t know what the underlying biology is….But in Parkinson’s Disease you see abnormal protein accumulation, and there’s some evidence that T.B.I. is linked to deposits of these normal proteins.” (Bakalar par. 5). The other known long-term disease that has a link to concussions is CTE. Both long-term diseases have long-term side effects of depression and anxiety.

The NFL has become increasingly worried about the rise of concussions after the 2017 football season. According to information gathered by the NFL (“National Football League”), ‘NFL players were diagnosed with more concussions in 2017 than in any season since the league began sharing the data in 2012, according information released Friday afternoon. There were 281 reported concussions during the preseason and regular season, including practices. The previous high was 275 in 2015” (Seifert pars. 1-2). Many members of the NFL medical officers are concerned about the increasing rates of concussions. Allen Sills, the chief medical officer of the NFL medical team, said that “assessing the overall health and safety impact of the game is a lot more complex than just a simple injury rate.” (Seifert par. 11), showing concern on behalf of his medical team.

To help prevent the spread of concussions, auto businesses and workplaces are not the only people making changes. Sports teams nationwide are making changes to their rules and how they are playing. They are buying updated, safer equipment and discussing how to execute plays before doing so. Sport authorities are pushing for rule changes to make the games safer. Meanwhile, transportation businesses are also making automobiles safer, by placing more padding inside. Cutting to the root of the problem with concussions will hopefully decrease the number of concussions, although there are no proven statistics to show the results yet. Concussions are dangerous to a person’s health – although most symptoms go away within a short recovery time, some people experience long-term symptoms. Depression and anxiety are two of these symptoms, and a large part in why people injured with concussions develop these two illnesses are due to long term recovery periods.

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Do Concussions Lead to Long-Term Depression and Anxiety?. (2021, Dec 25). Retrieved from

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