BOSTON — For Kylie Lowell, sports meant everything.
“It was my outlet and I spent every day after school playing sports,” Kylie said.
But it was sports that caused his downfall — thanks to a blow in 8th grade basketball.
“In one of my games, I just went for the ball and this girl took an elbow on my head,” Kylie recalled. “I passed out for a few minutes and it was the concussion that really started it all for me.”
What this concussion started is still not over. Kylie said she still struggled with fatigue and headaches – but that’s a big improvement for the 12th grader – who spent much of high school outside of the classroom.
“Going to school has become impossible for me,” she said. “The light. The noise. Just…I couldn’t do it. It was overstimulation.
Kylie suffered from post-concussion syndrome – and as a result, she developed anxiety and depression.
“I was a totally social girl,” she said. “I practiced three sports. I was at school every day. I loved being with my friends. I was just losing everything I had in my life. And it disappeared after a single blow to the head.
Head blows that lead to concussions significantly predispose children to mental health problems. That’s the conclusion of a new study by Canadian researchers, published this week in the JAMA network open.
The study looked at ten years of data from 2010 to 2020, with the researchers focusing on children, aged 5 to 18, who sought medical care during that time for concussions or orthopedic injuries – the latter group being included for comparison purposes.
The researchers found that concussions were more strongly correlated with mental health problems than orthopedic injuries – in a ratio of 11:8.
Robert Cantu, MD, medical director of the Concussion Center at Emerson Hospital and co-founder of Boston University’s CTE Center, called the study alarmist because the number of people developing mental health problems after a concussion seemed high.
“The point of this study that I think is very important – it highlights that one of the clusters of symptoms that occur with a concussion are emotional symptoms,” Cantu said. “And when they do happen, they need to be sought out number one, acknowledged – and they need to be dealt with, number two.”
Cantu said emotional symptoms can result directly from brain injury – but there are likely other mechanisms playing a role.
“If you have an underlying predisposition to anxiety or depression, almost always when you have a concussion it will be made worse.” Cantou said.
And then there’s the reactive depression that some children experience as a result, Cantu said, of their disrupted lives.
“They are not in the classroom as they would like to be, they are not functioning as they would like to be. and they are not back to sports if they were an athlete,” he said.
Kylie Lowell attempted a return to sports in her freshman year in high school, but suffered another concussion – her third overall (the first she had in elementary school.)
“I’m out of contact sports – probably for a while,” she said.
What she no longer came out of was life. Although Kylie is still experiencing symptoms from that Grade 8 concussion, she says she has learned to manage them.
“I dealt with depression and anxiety after losing important aspects of my life,” she said. “But I can finally go back to school and continue my work. And go to college next year. It was a huge boost in my morale. »
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