Concussions and Mental Health

min read


The Sports Injury Clinic

Tim Strahan

July 7, 2020


Mental health has rightfully become a topic of focus in recent years, with a greater level of attention being directed towards it. Despite all of this extra discussion surrounding mental health, something that is not commonly known, is the link it has to concussion.

Common symptoms that can arise after a concussion include depression, anxiety, changes to emotions and personality and difficulty focusing. As you may have already noticed, these symptoms are also prevalent in individuals with a mental illness. Given that our brains are responsible for regulating our emotions and our behaviour, it makes sense that an injury to the brain can result in an alteration to these facets of our life. Furthermore, it is possible for a pre-existing mental health condition to exacerbate the symptoms of a concussion and even prolong the recovery process.

There is evidence that individuals with pre-existing mental health conditions are more likely to undergo a prolonged recovery process. The concussion itself may also worsen and intensify these symptoms of mental illness. In addition, there is also the impact of injury on mental health that can result in a decline in mood and self-confidence. For someone who is already living with a mental illness, you can see how these interact.

Given that concussion has an impact on brain function, the seemingly unknown and inconsistent symptoms can be a cause of concern for some patients. For example, if you were to sprain your ankle, you can make activity and lifestyle adjustments to minimise the aggravation of your ankle; conversely, it is difficult to do this for the brain, as we are using it all of the time! Because of this, symptoms can appear to be more prevalent than in other injuries, as the constant use of our brains increases the rate of aggravation. This can lead to people becoming increasingly worried about their condition, since it may seem like there is little or no improvement, sometimes feeling like you're going backwards even though you're still gradually recovering.

Practitioners used to recommend an insignificant rest period for concussion treatment, as this was considered best practice - withdrawing from school, work, sport and social activities - sometimes for a week or longer. However, recent evidence is showing that only a very short period of rest is required, before a gradual return to activities is needed for effective recovery. You can imagine how detrimental it would be to our mental health if we had to withdraw from socialising and meaningful activities. When you consider the added stress that comes with an injury, and the potential exacerbation of mental health issues, then staying isolated from our regular activities can have a negative impact on our overall wellbeing.

As such, it is important that we approach treatment for concussion with the best available evidence at hand. This includes properly educating patients on the recovery process to alleviate concerns and prevent unnecessary and damaging stressors from taking hold and aggravating the condition.

With the support and training under the Complete Concussion Management Network, this is what we aim to provide at The Sports Injury Clinic, so we can achieve the best outcomes for our patients, not just in their physical health, but in a holistic approach that considers all factors of our lives.


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