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More Bad Behaviors Linked to Female Brain Injuries

Update Date: Sep 30, 2014 07:19 PM EDT

Traumatic brain injuries create more problems for girls, according to a new study.

Researchers found that teenage girls who experienced traumatic brain injury in their lifetime reported engaging in significantly more varied harmful behaviors than their male counterparts.

Researchers observed 13 harmful health behaviors like contemplating suicide, using marijuana, or binge drinking. The latest study involved 9,288 Ontario students between 7th and 12th grades. Researchers defined traumatic brain injury as any hit or blow to the head that resulted in the individual being knocked out for at least five minutes or spending at least one night in hospital due to head injury symptoms.

While both boys and girls were more likely to engage in a range of harmful behaviors. However, girls engaged in more harmful behaviors than boys.

"Both boys and girls were more likely to engage in a variety of harmful behaviors if they reported a history of TBI, but girls engaged in all 13 harmful behaviors we looked for, whereas boys were at higher risk of engaging in only nine," lead researcher Dr. Gabriela Ilie, a post-doctoral fellow at St. Michael's Hospital, said in a news release. "Sex matters when it comes to traumatic brain injuries."

The latest study revealed that girls who've suffered traumatic brain injuries were more likely to have smoked cigarettes, been victims of bullying, contemplated suicide or suffered significantly more psychological stress.

"Traumatic brain injuries are invisible but ignorance is not an excuse," added Ilie. "Parents, clinicians, teachers and coaches need to take all brain injuries, including concussions, seriously because their effects can affect students' formative years."

"Many harmful behaviors in adolescence can be precursors to addiction and mental health issues later in life," said Dr. Robert Mann, senior scientist at Center for Addiction and Mental Health and director of the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey, according to a press release. "The relationship between TBI and mental health issues is concerning and calls for greater focus on prevention and further research on this issue. We are seeing important links of adolescent TBI with both substance use and mental health problems and this combination of factors is something to watch as it may have a serious negative impact on these young people."

The findings are published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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