The New York Times has reported on a new study of over 100,000 head injury victims indicating that a single concussion in a teenager or younger child can have “lasting repercussions on mental health and intellectual and physical functioning throughout adulthood,” and further that multiple concussions notably increase the risks of later problems.
The multi-university study analyzed individuals who had suffered at least one head injury before age 25, and found that young people who had experienced a single diagnosed concussion were much more likely than the general population to be receiving medical disability payments as adults. The study dismissed some possible genetic susceptibilities, finding the same increased disability even as compared to the victims’ own uninjured siblings.
The study found that concussion victims were significantly more likely to need mental health care, and “much less likely to have graduated from high school or to have attended college” than their uninjured brother or sister. Further, they were nearly twice as likely as an uninjured sibling to suffer premature death.
What’s more, the data indicated that where individuals experienced more than one concussion while young, the possibility of lingering physical or psychological problems during adulthood rose precipitously. The same significant risk of ongoing problems was found where the brain injury had been more severe than a concussion. Finally, the outcomes were generally found to be worse if an individual experienced head trauma after age 15, leading the research team to conclude that the older brain is less resilient than in earlier childhood.
The import of the study was highlighted by other data from a separate new Blue Cross Blue Shield report indicating that the incidence of diagnosed concussions in young people under 20 climbed 71 percent between 2010 and 2015, with the steepest rise occurring among girls, who showed a 119 percent increase (though almost twice as many concussions were diagnosed in boys during the same period).
Multiple class action lawsuits have been litigated in recent years on behalf of professional athletes like football and hockey players for long-term disabilities and other serious brain illnesses arising out of concussion injuries sustained during professional sports play. In mid-2016, U.S. District Judge Anita Brody approved an uncapped settlement of nearly $1 billion in the NFL concussion class action lawsuit, where about 5,000 former professional football players sought damages for their suffering from concussions and head trauma linked to playing pro football. These repetitive head injuries could lead to a degenerative brain condition known as CTE.