What is the Link Between TBI and Energy Drinks?

Around half of adolescents drink energy drinks, and about one-third of them consume energy drinks on a regular basis. Approximately one-fifth of all teens also report suffering a traumatic brain injury. These two things might seem like they don’t have anything in common, but experts have pointed out that there could indeed be a link between the consumption of energy drinks and traumatic brain injuries.

Before we ask why this might be the case, let’s look at the alarming statistic on the issue. Teens who reported suffering a TBI in the last 12 months were seven times more likely to have consumed at least five energy drinks in the past week. That rate is extremely high, even to the point of being conspicuous.

There are several possible explanations why these drinks might be linked to TBIs, and it is not surprising for those that have paid attention to how these drinks are marketed to young people. Many energy drinks have branded their products as being particularly beneficial to athletes or to those taking part in certain sports-related activities like snowboarding.

Teens often drink these beverages to get themselves ready for a big game, or before a practice. When young people consume energy drinks, which contain not only caffeine but also other energy-boosting substances such as taurine, they might become overstimulated to the point of losing focus or feeling jittery. This could lead to making poor decisions or being less alert when they most need to focus on the task at hand, such as operating a vehicle or playing a contact sport.

Another major concern is that some young people prefer to mix energy drinks with alcohol, a combo that might also have a link to TBIs. The same study mentioned above found that teens who have suffered a brain injury in the last year were twice as likely to have mixed alcohol and energy drinks. The stimulants in energy drinks could mask the effects of alcohol, prompting one to consume more alcohol than they would otherwise. Consuming a mix of alcohol and an energy drink might also lead to their exhibiting more extreme behavior. These are just a couple of the reasons that the Food and Drug Administration warned against the selling of pre-mixed alcoholic energy drinks.

We are still learning about the incredible impact of traumatic brain injuries on young people. TBIs can potentially lead to violent behavior, poor classroom performance, depression, suicide and substance abuse problems, to name just a few effects. Sports are the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries among teens, and it is easy to see why consuming large quantities of energy drinks might increase the chances of suffering a brain injury.

Parents and teens should be aware of the risks posed by energy drinks. There is little research to support the idea that energy drinks actually improve a person’s athletic performance on the field. There are many ways to get pumped up before a game without downing an energy drink. Consider these things the next time you see a large advertisement for an energy drink at a sporting event, and remember that the benefits of energy drinks are not as advertised.