Concussions and Depression

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Concussions, Depression May Be Linked  -  A recent study presented  to a meeting of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, supports earlier research that linked depression suffered by World War II soldiers to head injuries / concussions suffered decades ago. The recent study found that retired football players, who have suffered three or four concussions, have twice the risk of later developing clinical depression, a risk that rises with more injuries. What once was considered merely a bang on the head can have long-term repercussions. Concussions, a mild brain injury, can be caused by any blow or jolt to the head. An estimated 1.1 million Americans suffer a concussion each year. If you receive another head injury before you've fully healed, you may suffer potentially deadly brain swelling. 

Scientists already know a concussion somehow throws crucial brain-chemical reactions out of whack, but they're not sure for how long, a key to deciding when the patient is healed, or if that imbalance can cause a chain reaction leading to later problems like depression.

As a result of recent findings, it is suggested that athletes, their coaches, and their relatives start taking concussions more seriously. It is important to look hard for symptoms. They're not always obvious in an adrenaline-pumped athlete. Loss of consciousness, from a few seconds to a half-hour, is the best-known symptom, but doesn't always occur. Other symptoms include confusion, persistent headache, cognitive problems, fatigue and changes in mood, vision or hearing. Particularly crucial is short-term memory: How long before you were hit can you remember? The longer the period of amnesia, the worse the concussion. It is also important to watch for changes in behavior and signs that signal pain the patient denies.

Coaches have long thought that if obvious symptoms disappear within 15 minutes, it's safe to put a player back in the game. But last winter, researchers discovered that teenage athletes with the mildest of concussions often have subtle memory and other symptoms days later, refuting that advice. Rest is the only way to heal, and  research suggests that takes about a week, maybe more. 

How many concussions is too many? Each one suffered seems to render someone more vulnerable to another, but "there's no magic number that we know at this point in time where you can say, 'OK, you've now had that final one concussion too many,'" says University of Pittsburgh neuropsychologist Mark Lovell - Lauran Neergaared,  AP Medical Writer, May 5, 2003

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