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Kentucky researchers study effects of concussions on teens

Two researchers at the University of Kentucky have made some interesting findings on the effects of concussions on young athletes. They studied the emotional, cognitive and physical symptoms that young athletes develop after their injury. They studied 37 athletes ages 12 to 17 years old.

The two researchers are uniquely qualified for this project. One, a neuropsychologist who is the head of UK HealthCare's state-of-the-art Multidisciplinary Concussion Program, was once an assistant high school principal. There, he oversaw athletes after they returned to school following concussions. He's also been involved in martial arts and says he knows firsthand what it's like to have a concussion. So does his fellow researcher, who is working towards her doctoral degree in psychology at the university. She played high school soccer.

According to the doctor, the research provides a "better understanding of the interaction between physical and emotional symptoms in concussion." They hope to lessen recovery time and help doctors better gauge when a student athlete can get back on the field. They also hope that by being able to identify the physical and emotional effects of a teen's concussion, doctors can better develop "a treatment plan based on their unique cognitive, physical and emotional response to concussion" as well as "what accommodations are needed at school during recovery."

The majority of teens studied (22) demonstrated emotional symptoms such as anxiety, irritability and aggression after their injury. Almost a quarter of these also had light sensitivity, and 14 percent demonstrated noise sensitivity. Fewer of those without emotional systems had light sensitivity and none had sensitivity to noise. The teens with emotional systems were also more likely to experience difficulties paying attention.

The severity of the concussion did not seem to impact whether the teens developed emotional systems or not. However, a "bidirectional relationship" between physical and emotional symptoms was found in the study.

The teen years are often a time of emotional turmoil even without the added element of a brain injury. The more we learn about recognizing brain injury symptoms in teens (and people of all ages), the better their medical providers and their families can plan for their care. Further, if someone else is determined to be at fault for a brain injury, by having a good idea of the potential length and scope of treatment, the victim can seek the appropriate financial damages to cover that treatment.

Source:, "Research pair uniquely qualified to study teen concussions, ties between injury and emotion" Allison Perry and Laura Dawahare, Aug. 11, 2014

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