Is there a link between concussions and depression?

08 June 2014

Have your teenager’s eating habits changed drastically or do they seem to be sleeping excessively and even losing interest in their hobbies or daily activities they used to enjoy? If your child has suffered a concussion in the past, their sudden behavioural change could be attributed to resulting depression.


Dr Michael Mol of local television programme Hello Doctor recently tweeted that teens with a history of concussions are three times more likely to suffer from depression. The programme’s chief medical officer, Dr Russell Thomson, agrees. “It is worldwide common knowledge among doctors,” he says. “It is not clear why but we suspect it is related to brain injury or inflammation of the brain.”

He explains that even though there’s no study to support the claim, medical practitioners believe about 10 per cent of teens are likely to suffer from a depression disorder following a concussion. He suspects teen boys to be at higher risk than girls because boys are more involved in contact sports.

According to the South African Depression & Anxiety Group (SADAG), 60 per cent of youths with mental health disorders aren’t correctly diagnosed, thus making it hard to get proper treatment. Undiagnosed concussions could lead not only to depression but also to brain damage and permanent disability.

Concussions temporarily alter brain functionality and most teens can recover completely within a week or two depending on the severity of the incident. However, Thomson advises children with concussions be screened carefully and always treated by a medical practitioner. This way long-term health problems can be avoided.

Moms, look out for these signs of concussion:

A change in level of alertness



Problems sleeping

Problems with coordination or balance

Nausea and vomiting



Difficulty concentrating

Blurred vision

Slurred speech

Trouble with memory

But how can mothers tell the difference between typical teenage behaviour and depression? According to SADAG symptoms of depression may include the following:

Lack of sleep or sleeping too much 

Loss of interest in daily activities or hobbies

Fatigue or lack of energy

Constantly feeling sad and anxious

Rebellious behaviour

Feeling hopelessness or helplessness

Difficulty concentrating and remembering

Frequently crying 

Persistent body aches or pains such as headaches or digestive problems 

Suicidal thoughts 

Poor appetite or overeating

Here’s help

If you suspect your child is suffering from depression, contact the South African Depression & Anxiety Group on 0800-21-22-23 or 0800-567-567 or SMS 31393.

-Koketso Mashika

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