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Brain Injury Can Change Teens’ Behavior, Especially Girls

Serious brain injury can affect patients physically, mentally, and emotionally. But for teen victims, especially girls, it can even change their behavior.

A recent blog post warned parents to watch out for concussions on the field and behind the wheel because those injuries can cause developmental delays in children. Now researchers have analyzed the 2011 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and found that brain injury can also increase the risk that teens will engage in harmful behaviors.

The study surveyed 9,300 students in grades 7 through 12, asking them whether they had engaged in 13 different harmful behaviors including alcohol use, drug use, suicidal thoughts, and other behaviors. Teens with a history of serious traumatic brain injury – including a loss of consciousness for at least 5 minutes or at least one night in the hospital – were more likely to engage in those behaviors than teens without injuries.

What surprised the researchers most was the gender difference: boys were at higher risk for 9 behaviors, but girls increased their risk in all 13 categories. Girls were more likely than boys to smoke cigarettes, be bullied, contemplate suicide, or feel psychological distress.

The lead author, Dr. Gabriela Ilie, a neuropsychologist at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, believes the difference may be because of biological factors like hormones, and gender-specific socialization. She believes the explanation is probably “a variety of interactive factors, both biological and social.”

The risk was also greater in the late teens as compared to mid-teen years – where there was a 20% increase in alcohol use among TBI-affected girls. Dr. Robert Mann, a senior scientist at CAMH said:

“We are seeing important links of adolescent TBI with both substance use and mental health problems and this combination of factors is something to watch, as it may have a serious negative impact on these young people.”

Parents are urged to take any head injury seriously. “we need to stop turning a blind eye to those injuries. Brain injuries are something that we must look at and treat short- and long-term,” Dr. Ilie said. If your kid suffers a blow to the head he or she should be assessed by a doctor immediately and head-injury specialists should monitor the head trauma for long-term symptoms. Early detection and treatment can help minimize the long-term affect of brain injury and speed recovery.

David Christensen is a brain injury expert at Christensen Law in Southfield, Michigan. He and his team can help the victims of automobile accidents resulting in brain injuries to get their medical expenses and treatments paid for under the No-Fault Insurance Act. If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident, contact Christensen Law for a free consultation today.