Stories about: severe head injury

Can suffering a head injury make a person more violent later in life?

It seems like head injury awareness is everywhere these days. From veteran hospitals and construction sites to cheer practice and Pee-Wee hockey games, it appears that people are beginning to understand just how serious a head injury can be. One of the more important aspects of that awareness is the realization that with these types of injuries, many of the associated risks may not become apparent until long after the swelling has subsided and bruises have healed, or there may be no bruises at all. Memory loss, brain damage and difficulties with school have all been seen in children who suffered a blow to the head, and sometimes these conditions don’t manifest for months or years after the accident. Now, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics, there could be yet another risky, long-term side effect for children with brain injury: An increased risk for violent behavior.

The study, which followed 850 high school students for five years, showed that of the 88 study participants who had suffered head injury, 43 percent of them were involved in some form of violence in the year following their injury. That’s almost a 10 percent increase in violent activity when compared to study participants who had never suffered a head injury. These numbers may seem staggering to some, but come as no real surprise to the medical community.

“Given what we know about brain injuries’ ability to affect behavior, these results are far from shocking. Depending on the nature of the injury, it’s not unusual for a patient’s judgment of what is and what isn’t acceptable behavior to change after significant brain trauma,” says Mark Proctor, MD, of Children’s Hospital Boston’s department of Neurosurgery.  “It’s a little bit like what happens when some people drink. Their inhibitions and normal judgment change, sometimes fairly significantly.”

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