President Obama Hosts the Healthy Kids and Safe Sports Concussion Summit
President Obama’s recent White House Summit on youth concussions is a key step toward to addressing the growing public health concern of concussions and the need for better identification, assessment, and treatment approaches for younger individuals. The summit not only advanced attention to much needed research, but also highlighted prevention, detection and awareness about sports-related concussions in children.
In his remarks at the Summit, President Obama calls for “taking the matter seriously”, but if we want to take the identification and management of concussions seriously we must address their mental health implications. Mental health challenges are common after concussions and other more serious forms of traumatic brain injury (TBI). About 40% of individuals with a TBI have two or more mental health conditions. These mental health problems can occur any time after injury and vary in nature from subtle changes in mood, behavior, and cognition to diagnosable conditions such as depression or anxiety.
As with concussions, early identification of these mental health consequences after a brain injury is critical but detection can be challenging because the symptoms of both problems are often overlapping.
Recovery after TBI is a complicated process and varies by individual. Co-occurring mental health challenges are a source of significant distress and disability for many individuals. If not identified and addressed properly, they frequently complicate recovery and rehabilitation, resulting in poorer outcomes.
While researchers are only beginning to explore the complexity of TBI and strategies to effectively detect TBI are still fairly limited, it’s clear that addressing TBI’s mental health implications is a vital component to the recovery process.
In fact, treatment that is person-centered, multi-disciplinary, and that focuses on implementing appropriate interventions based on an individual’s unique needs, is the best approach to addressing TBI’s complex physiological, psychological, and behavioral consequences.
By not addressing the mental health issues associated with TBI, we are doing a vast disservice to individuals, including children, and their families impacted by these complex brain injuries.