Injury-trauma link under microscope at Notre Dame


Sarah Harris is helping to investigate the link between head trauma and depression in young footballers.
Sarah Harris is helping to investigate the link between head trauma and depression in young footballers.

EXPLORING the links between concussion and brain injury is becoming a priority among researchers but a University of Notre Dame PhD candidate is taking her research one-step further.

Sarah Harris has joined a team from Notre Dame’s Institute for Health Research in investigating the links between head trauma and depression in young football players.

Their findings to date have 35 players reporting 194 head knocks between them over the course of the season, with those who receive multiple knocks reporting more symptoms than those who had not been hurt at all.

Ms Harris said while there was a lot of research into the long-term consequences of concussion on mood disorders and memory, there was little insight into the impact recent head knocks had on mental health.

“Especially in males, brains are still developing up until the age of 25,” she said. “The prefrontal cortex, which is the last region of the brain to develop, is also the region most frequently affected in sporting concussions.

“If a player receives a head knock which is not immediately identified as a concussion, they may continue to play or train and if they then receive a second head knock while the brain is recovering this may increase the risk of further injury, including depressive symptoms.”

She said the difficulty in diagnosing concussions meant education was more important than ever.

“They should be educated about how to recognise post-concussion symptoms, the importance of not continuing to play and the appropriate return-to-play strategies,” she said.