Association Between Concussions and Suicidality in High School Students in the United States

Grant L. Iverson, Justin E. Karr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Importance: Prior research has shown a statistically significant association between sustaining a concussion and suicidality in adolescents, but this prior research controlled for relatively few variables predictive of suicidality. Objective: To examine whether sustaining a concussion remained a significant predictor of suicidality after controlling for relevant covariates (e.g., sexual abuse/assault, bullying, substance use, depression), hypothesizing that the relationship between concussion and suicidality would become non-significant after controlling for these variables. Design: This study involved secondary data analysis of the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance (YRBS) System, a national cross-sectional study of adolescents. Analyses were stratified by gender. Setting: A national sampling of U.S. high school students. Participants: Eleven thousand two hundred sixty-two students in the YRBS database, including 5,483 boys and 5,779 girls. Exposure(s): Participants included in the analyses reported whether, in the last year, they experienced a concussion and/or suicidality. Main Outcomes and Measures: The main outcome was suicidality (i.e., ideation, planning, attempt), which was predicted by concussion in an unadjusted analysis and by concussion along with other risk factors in a multivariable analysis. Results: The final sample included 11,262 participants with available data on concussion and suicidality in the last year (14–18 years-old; 51.3% girls; 49.0% White). Per unadjusted odds ratios with 95% confidence intervals, there was a relationship between concussion and suicidal ideation [girls: OR = 1.46 (1.24, 1.73); boys: OR = 1.69 (1.41, 2.03)], planning (girls: OR = 1.39 [1.16, 1.66]; boys: OR = 1.76 [1.44, 2.14]), and attempt [girls: OR = 1.70 (1.32, 2.19); boys: OR = 3.13, (2.37, 4.15)]. These relationships became mostly non-significant after controlling for relevant risk factors for suicidality. The adjusted odds ratios showed no relationship between concussion and suicidal ideation [girls: OR = 1.11 (0.86, 1.44); boys: OR = 1.24 (0.92, 1.69)] or planning (girls: OR = 1.07 [0.82, 1.40]; boys: OR = 1.12 [0.82, 1.55]); but a significant relationship with suicide attempts in boys [OR = 1.98 (1.28, 3.04)], but not girls [OR = 1.05 (0.74, 1.49)]. Conclusions and Relevance: There was an association between concussion and suicidality in U.S. high school students; however, after controlling for other variables (e.g., depression, sexual abuse/assault, illicit drug use), there was no association between concussion and suicidality aside from a significant relationship between concussion and attempts in boys.

Original languageEnglish
Article number810361
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
StatePublished - Apr 12 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2022 Iverson and Karr.


  • concussion
  • head injury
  • sports
  • suicide
  • traumatic brain injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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