*The following is excerpted from an online article from HealthDay.
Teenagers who have experienced a traumatic brain injury are much more likely to engage in a wide range of risky behaviors, Canadian researchers report.
Both boys and girls were more likely to smoke, use drugs, drink alcohol and get poor grades after they endured a blow to the head that knocked them out for longer than five minutes or landed them in the hospital for a day or more, the study found.
"This is a wake-up call. Concussions are brain injuries, and we need parents and physicians to become more vigilant," said lead author Gabriela Ilie, a postdoctoral fellow at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto. "Our brains define who we are, and a lot of our behaviors and thoughts and emotions depend on our brain circuitry operating properly."
However, the study only showed an association between traumatic brain injury and risky behaviors, not a cause-and-effect relationship.
Researchers used data gathered during the 2011 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey developed by the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. The responses came from more than 9,000 students between grades 7 and 12 in public schools across Ontario.
The survey screened for traumatic brain injury by asking teens if they ever had a head injury that resulted in a loss of consciousness for at least five minutes or required them to spend at least one night in the hospital, Ilie said.
Boys were three and a half times more likely to have bad grades, three times more likely to need medical treatment for a physical injury and twice as likely to use pot, compared with other boys who hadn't had a brain injury. By contrast, girls were nearly four times more likely to have bad grades and three times more likely to smoke, compared to girls without a brain injury.
The findings are published Sept. 30 in the online journal PLOS ONE.