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A Single Concussion Raises Your Risk for Suicide

July 5, 2016

One Concussion Is All It Takes

While the constant barrage of head trauma that comes with playing sports like football or rugby now raises alarms for adult athletes and the parents of children who participate in youth sports, a single concussion sustained in the course of routine activities — like a child falling off the monkey bars or a minor car accident —rarely attracts attention as more than a scare unless symptoms persist.

A new study of mild concussions in Canadian adults, however, calls that view into question. The study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, found that the long-term risk of suicide in adults increases threefold if they have experienced even a single concussion.

The expansive study, which collected data from a population of about a quarter million adults, found that the increased risk of suicide was independent of demographics or previous psychiatric conditions, and it increased with additional concussions.

Curiously, the study also found that the risk of suicide increases by a third if the concussion is sustained on a weekend rather than a weekday, which suggests that, for reasons as yet unknown, concussions sustained during recreational activity may be more dangerous than those suffered on the job. Researchers speculated that the increased weekend risk might exist because medical staff may not be as available or because people are less likely to seek immediate medical attention on weekends.

In an interview with Scientific American, senior neuroscientist and lead author of the study Dr. Donald Redelmeier said that he treats many concussion patients and that the vast majority of them are middle-aged adults who were engaging in routine activities at the time of their injury.

“The usual circumstances for acquiring a concussion are not while playing football,” he said. “It is when driving in traffic and getting into a crash, when missing a step and falling down a staircase, when getting overly ambitious about home repairs — the everyday activities of life.”

How Do Concussions Raise Suicide Risk?

A concussion, which is a mild form of traumatic brain injury (TBI), affects the brain in ways that aren’t fully understood. Researchers are still trying to figure out the correlation between concussion and suicide, and there are at least three potential explanations.

  • People who have baseline imbalances that increase their risk of depression and suicide may be more prone toward concussions, whether due to risk-taking behavior or for other reasons. However, in the Canadian study, the subgroup of patients who had no history of psychiatric problems still experienced the increase in suicide risk after a concussion.
  • Some concussion patients may not allow enough time for a full recovery before returning to their normal activities, which could lead to stress, anxiety, and even depression — all of which are associated with increased suicide risk. On average, though, the Canadian researchers found that suicide occurred almost six years after the concussion.
  • Concussions may cause brain injury such as inflammation from which the patient may never recover. Redelmeier and his colleagues believe this is one of the most likely explanations and say it’s supported by some existing research, including a 2014 study that found sustaining a head injury leads to a greater risk of mental illness later in life.

Speaking with Scientific American, Redelmeier warned that the alarming findings he and his team published are probably just beginning to scratch the surface of the long-term consequences associated with mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBIs).

“We’re only looking at the most extreme outcomes, at taking your own life,” he said. “But for every person who dies from suicide, there are many others who attempt suicide and hundreds more who think about it and thousands more who suffer from depression.”

Contact the Law Office of William D. Cook if You’ve Been Injured

If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of a TBI or concussion, or if you feel you may have been in a situation that potentially caused a brain injury, don’t wait to get help. Contact the Law Office of William D. Cook, and we’ll make sure that your personal injury case gets the expert medical analysis and legal support it deserves.

We offer free consultations where we can discuss your legal options — including whether you may be entitled to compensation — and decide what your best course of action is moving forward. Call (800) 757-7757 or fill out our convenient online contact form today to schedule your free consultation.


Cepelewicz, J. (2016, February 8). A single concussion may triple the long-term risk of suicide. Scientific American. Retrieved from


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