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The Effects of Repetitive Head Impact Exposure on Mental Health Symptoms Following Traumatic Brain Injury.

OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to characterize the types and timing of repetitive head impact (RHI) exposures in individuals with moderate to severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) and to examine the effects of RHI exposures on mental health outcomes.

SETTING: TBI Model Systems National Database.

PARTICIPANTS: 447 patients with moderate to severe TBI who reported RHI exposure between 2015 and 2022.

DESIGN: Secondary data analysis.

MAIN MEASURES: RHI exposures reported on the Ohio State University TBI Identification Method (OSU TBI-ID) were characterized by exposure category, duration, and timing relative to the index TBI. Mental health outcomes were evaluated at the 5-year follow-up assessment using the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) for depression symptoms and the Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 (GAD-7) for anxiety symptoms.

RESULTS: The majority of RHI exposures were sports-related (61.1%), followed by other causes (20.8%; including falls), repetitive violence/assault (18.8%), and military exposures (6.7%). Males predominantly reported sports and military exposures, while a larger proportion of females reported violence and falls. Sports exposures were most common before the index TBI, while exposures from falls and violence/abuse were most common after TBI. RHI exposures occurring after the index TBI were associated with higher levels of depression (β = 5.05; 95% CI, 1.59-8.50) and anxiety (β = 4.53; 95% CI, 1.02-8.05) symptoms than exposures before the index TBI.

CONCLUSION: The findings emphasize the need to consider RHI exposures and their interaction with TBI when assessing mental health outcomes. Understanding the prevalence and challenges associated with RHI post-TBI can inform targeted interventions and improve the well-being of individuals with TBI. Preventive measures and ongoing care should be implemented to address the risks posed by RHI, particularly in individuals with prior TBI, especially surrounding fall and violence/abuse prevention.

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