Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Important not to cloud the discussion over depression
There has been much deserved attention placed upon concussions and the effects of repetitive sub-concussive hits to the head in sport. While these discussions bring much necessary light to the health and protection of the brain in all levels of sport, it is wrong to attribute all depression and mental illness in athletes to brain trauma. Mental illness affects athletes just like it affects the non-athletic population. Teen and young adult suicide is often a result of untreated depression. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) has been shown to be a factor in depression, but focus (especially media focus) on this being the cause may result in the neglect (or misdiagnosis) of depression, especially in non-athletes or those who are not subjected to head trauma. For the same reason that many possible concussions are not reported, signs or symptoms of depression are also not reported. In their desire to compete, athletes often do not report anything that they feel might keep them out of their game. Athletes have always been told to be tough and to fight through adversity, so they may not want face any perceived acknowledgment of weakness for admitting depression. While it is important recognize that depression may present itself after a concussion or as a side effect of multiple sub-concussive hits to the head, it is also important to not allow the attention paid to concussions cloud the attention that needs to be given to the recognition and treatment for depression. If too much attention is paid to the potential cause of depression and not to the recognition and treatment, it may be too late.