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Concussion risk and suicide prevention: balancing the risks and benefits of youth sport

Amanda Clacy, Daniel F Hermens, Kathryn Broadhouse and Jim Lagopoulos
Med J Aust 2019; 211 (6): . || doi: 10.5694/mja2.50319
Published online: 2 September 2019

Young people who play sport are exposed to a range of neurological, emotional and developmental benefits but are also at risk of injuries that can threaten these

Recent population data have identified that young Australians are now more likely to take their own life than die in a motor vehicle accident.1 Suicide accounts for over one‐third of deaths (36%) among 15–24‐year‐old Australians.1 The need to understand the neurobiological mechanisms underpinning suicidality in youth, as well as potential strategies that can be implemented to address these, is of great importance. Consequent to the dramatic hormonal, neurological and psychosocial changes that typically occur during adolescence, adolescents present a unique population within which to explore the potential neurophysiological and biological mechanisms of suicidality. It is well known that the prefrontal cortex and hippocampal regions undergo substantial development during adolescence (Box, A).2 Within the complex networks of interconnected brain regions (Box, C), the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex stand out as particularly relevant to understanding the neurobiological mechanisms underpinning depression and suicidality in youth. Abnormality or dysfunction in these areas contributes to behavioural disinhibition, poor problem solving, impaired decision making and emotional instability, all of which are risk factors for suicidal behaviour.3 While the milieu of clinical youth suicide prevention strategies continues to develop, it is important to consider the promotion of youth engagement with activities that may protect against depression and suicide from a fundamental biological level, outside of clinical settings.

  • Amanda Clacy
  • Daniel F Hermens
  • Kathryn Broadhouse
  • Jim Lagopoulos

  • Sunshine Coast Mind and Neuroscience – Thompson Institute, University of the Sunshine Coast, Birtinya, QLD

Correspondence: aclacy@usc.edu.au

Acknowledgements: 

We thank Glenn Holmes, PhD student, Sunshine Coast Mind and Neuroscience ‐ Thompson Institute, University of the Sunshine Coast, for his input.

Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.

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