Concussions and depression

Scott Russell address the 2014 Heads Up conference at St. Michael's Hospital about concussions in sports. (Beth Bowers/Ryersonian)

Scott Russell address the 2014 Heads Up conference at St. Michael’s Hospital about concussions in sports. (Beth Bowers/Ryersonian)

Emily Wrigglesworth has had 10 concussions and suffered depression “after all of them.”

And it was noticeably worse after her ninth, in September 2012.

The Ryerson journalism student couldn’t even get out of bed without getting headaches.

“I have never been so frustrated in my life,” Wrigglesworth said.

On young people, the effects of a concussion often extents beyond just physical pain.

According to a doctor who spoke at the  2014 Heads Up Conference on Saturday, youth who have concussions are more likely to have suicide thoughts than those who do not.

Dr. Gabriela Ilie said young people with concussions were found to be twice as likely to contemplate suicide and three times as likely to have attempted suicide. This occurred even if the concussion happened earlier in his or her lifetime.

Ilie, a cognition and emotion research psychologist at St. Michael’s Hospital, quoted a 2011 study which also showed one in five Ontario public and Catholic students in grades 7 through 12 had a traumatic brain injury at least once in his or her lifetime. This is defined by either staying at least one night in hospital or being unconscious for at least five minutes. Approximately 10,000 students were surveyed. Around 60 per cent of concussions in boys were sports-related and just under half in girls.

Dr. Michael Cusimano, a neurosurgeon at St. Michael’s Hospital, said at the conference there are between 1.75 and 2.5 million concussions each year in North America and 20 to 40 per cent of these occur from sports.

Eight of Wrigglesworth’s concussions are among those.

For her ninth, she was playing in a charity soccer game when she was run over by a man who was significantly bigger.

Wrigglesworth said she was forced to miss three weeks of school plus reading week and had to drop one class. It hurt to read, watch TV, cook and even go for walks.

Wrigglesworth added she still feels the effects of her concussions. She estimates she can only run for 20 minutes before getting a headache, and it is even affecting her memory.

“With each (concussion) it has gotten progressively worse,” she said.

Scott Russell, the last speaker of the day for the conference, said the fact that there is much discussion of concussion injuries shows that “we’ve lost our way” in sports.

The CBC sports commentator said, “We take (sports) too seriously…We should not be having to talk about head injuries about something that gives (athletes) joy.”

The Heads Up annual conference started in 2011. It is aimed at informing the general public about concussions and other brain injuries.

It is organized by Cusimano and the Injury Prevention Research Office at St. Michael’s Hospital.

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