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Light Sensitivity Post-Concussion Tied to an Increased Risk of Developing Emotional Symptoms

Update Date: Jul 10, 2014 04:07 PM EDT

Concussions, which often occur due to high impact contact, can be highly detrimental to one's cognitive health. People who suffer from concussions are advised to avoid physical and mental work until their symptoms disappear. However, concussion symptoms can differ between patients. In a new study, researchers found that people who suffer from light or noise sensitivity after a concussion have an increased risk of developing emotional symptoms, such as anxiety.

"While most people recover from a concussion within a week, a number of factors affect people's recovery, and studies have shown that teenage athletes may take up to seven to 10 days longer to recover than older athletes," said study authors Lisa M. Koehl, MS, and Dong (Dan) Y. Han, PsyD, of the University of Kentucky in Lexington reported in the press release.

Koehl and colleagues recruited 37 young athletes between the ages of 12 and 17. The athletes had suffered from concussion symptoms that lasted an average of 37 days. 22 of the adolescents exhibited emotional symptoms, which include irritability, aggression, depression, anxiety, apathy, mood changes and emotional reactions. The other 15 children did not have any emotional issues post-concussion. The team excluded all teens that had a history of psychological problems.

The researchers calculated that teens that had anxiety were 55 percent more likely to report having problems with their attention span in comparison to teens without anxiety. Teens who were irritable or aggressive were 35 percent more likely to complain about attention difficulties than teens without these two symptoms.

In the group of teens who experienced emotional issues, 23 percent or five of them had light sensitivity and 14 percent or three teens had noise sensitivity. The rates for light sensitivity and noise sensitivity in the other group were 13 percent and zero percent respectively. The researchers did not find a relationship between the development of emotional symptoms and other physical symptoms, such as nausea or headaches.

"Identifying factors such as these that may exacerbate issues teens experience after concussion may help in planning for the appropriate treatment and in making decisions about when to return to play and what accommodations are needed at school for these athletes," the researchers concluded.

The study is set to be presented at The Sports Concussion Conference located in Chicago, IL. The American Academy of Neurology is hosting the conference.

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