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How concussions really affect mental health



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Photo: Tim de Waele / Corbis via Getty Images

At only 23 years of age, Kelly Catlin was Olympic gold medalist and Stanford University graduate, fluent in Chinese, mathematician and Musician and had the dream to become a Data Scientist

Those who knew her well believed that she would take her place – so it was a great shock when she took her own life last week.

The head injury that has changed everything

Being a professional athlete at A young age is not easy, and Catlin has often called for a fight to reconcile school and career.

"The hardest part is having to repeat a three-hour final exam as soon as you leave the finals of a team pursuit … and things still slip through the cracks," she wrote in an article for VeloNews in February time, I do not do anything to work. It's like juggling with knives, but I really drop lots of them. It's just that most of them come to the ground, not me.

But it did not get worse until she suffered a series of crashes in cycling last year.

She broke in October. In December, she suffered a concussion after riding on a slippery road and banging her head (Related: My neck injury was the self-help wake-up call that I did not know I needed)

Initially Catlin did not know she had a concussion, she went on as normal, but her Parents noticed a change in her, her posture changed dramatically, and she complained of blurred vision and severe headaches, and she tried to work out a workout with her.

"We did not know about the raging thoughts and the obsession about different things and the nightmares, "said her sister Christine NPR ." We only knew about the headache. "

The Selb Attempted Murder

In January 201

9, Catlin tried to take her first life time. The suicide attempt had confronted her with lung and heart problems, forcing her to retire from the 2019 World Championships in Athletics.

But Catlin was angry and frustrated. "She told me that she had failed to make the suicide attempt," said her brother Colin . (See also: Fitness found me returning from the brink of suicide)

But only a few months later, she committed suicide and died of suffocation. Catlin's family still could not believe it. "She has promised us that she will not kill herself," said her father NPR. "Waves of Despair [came] above us."

Can brain disorders affect mental health?

Considering what Catlin had reached at her age, it is no secret that she was under great pressure, which may have played a part in her decision to end her life. However, her abrupt change in personality and behavior after her concussion has sparked discussions about how traumatic brain injury can affect mental health.

Studies show that the occurrence of a concussion can increase a person's risk of suicide in two ways. Not to mention, elite athletes already have an increased risk of anxiety and depression – both risk factors for suicide. (Last year, Michael Phelps opened his fight against depression and suicidality.)

"Your brain controls everything you do and feel in a sense," says David Kruse, a specialist in sports medicine and concussion at the Hoag Orthopedic Institute and US American gymnastics team doctor. "Brain injury such as sport concussion can affect every aspect of your brain function, there are common deficiencies such as visual sensitivities or sleep disturbances, but this can also lead to changes in personality, mental state, mood and behavior / or behavior . "

What's more, the damage a brain concussion causes for your brain has the potential to unmask or exacerbate existing brain conditions, Dr. Kruse.

He uses a hypothesis to explain precisely that means:

"An athlete may not have a personal history of anxiety or depression, but may have a family member who is struggling with the condition," explains Dr. Kruse. "We know that mental disorders can be genetically conditioned so that the athlete is already prone to anxiety or depression.If this athlete suffers a concussion, he or she would be more inclined to as a symptom of anxiety or depression

It is not known if Catlin's family has mental health problems, but this may explain the rapid development of symptoms after her concussion, Dr. Kruse. (See also: I stayed calm about suicide.)

"Of course, this can be a complex matter," adds Dr. Kruse added. "There are many levels for developing symptoms like this and it's hard to know what role a concussion can play in each case."

What we can move forward

Next to her death, Catlin's family donated their brains for research. They hope it will help figure out how a concussion has led to mental and behavioral changes that they believe have ultimately led to their daughter's death.

While further research may be helpful, Dr. Kruse says more awareness is also important: "Most people do not know that concussions are traumatic brain injuries," he says. "Some concussions are easy to spot, but some can be subtle and penetrating, so it's important to educate people on how concussions can occur and how they can affect all aspects of brain function." (Read: What Everyone Must Know About Increasing Suicide Rates in the US)

In particular, athletes need to take brain injuries more seriously. "Athletes can be exceptionally motivated and focused, which of course can lead to great success in their sport, but it can also cause symptoms to be masked and downplayed as they are motivated to quickly return to their sport or team," says Kruse , "If an athlete returns early to his or her sport before a proper recovery has taken place, symptoms and deficits can be lengthened and worsened, which can lead to a complicated concussion course."

If you are feeling or feeling suicidal For extended periods of profound desperation, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to speak with someone 24 hours old offers free and confidential support on the day, seven days a week.


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