New Study Shows Single Concussion Can Have Permanent Effects

A new study in Radiology suggests that concussions may have more serious long-term effects than we’d like to think. In fact, according to a report on those findings in the Los Angeles Times, a single brain injury can actually “cause changes in the structure of the brain” and lead to cognitive problems and depression.

Unlike other injuries, it’s often difficult for medical professionals to diagnose concussions. For example, some patients don’t visit the doctor immediately after sustaining a head injury since they don’t lose consciousness. But many of these people can still experience life-threatening conditions, such as bleeding in the brain or permanent cognitive problems. More significantly, when people who have suffered these injuries do visit their physicians, CT scans and MRIs can read as “perfectly normal” after a concussion. This is a proven problem, since there’s no specific diagnostic test to determine if a patient has been concussed.

So what does this mean for you? If you or a loved one has suffered a head injury, you’ll want to know the implications of this new study. Since it turns out that even a single concussion can have lifelong effects, if you’ve had a traumatic brain injury at any point, you may have a claim.

How Do We Define Concussions and Other Brain Injuries?
Many articles toss around the phrases “traumatic brain injury” and “concussion.” Are they the same thing? According to the Mayo Clinic, a “traumatic brain injury” occurs “when an external mechanical force causes brain dysfunction.” It can result from violent blows to the head or body, and can include situations in which object penetrates the skull (such as a bullet).

A bit differently, “a mild traumatic brain injury” can cause “temporary dysfunction of brain cells,” and can result in symptoms such as bleeding, bruising, and other physical damage. A concussion is a type of mild traumatic brain injury.

What Did the New Study Find?
Using a technique called magnetic resonance imaging—different from typical MRIs—the new study compared the brains of healthy subjects with the brains of patients who had suffered a mild traumatic brain injury a year prior. In the subjects who had suffered these brain injuries, the comparison showed that those patients had “shrinkage in brain regions” that control “memory, executive function, and mood regulation.” The researchers conducting the experiment described their findings of “true structural injury” to brains that had undergone even a single concussion.

This study is the first of its kind, as previous research failed to confirm that a single concussion is capable of leaving “measurable scars on the brain.” Although scientists and physicians suspected as much, Dr. Yvonne W. Lui, the study’s lead author, said that the new findings simply confirm years of suspicion in her field.

These results have significant implications for persons who may be concussed in the future, but also for those who are currently suffering the after-effects of a brain injury. Brain-trauma victims now may be able to get answers about the “biological underpinnings” of enduring symptoms from their concussions.

In addition, results like these may lead to increased monitoring for patients who experience these single, isolated concussions. For example, another study from the National Institute of Health concluded that MRIs should be used more widely to “detect differences in the post-concussive brain” in time periods after the suspected concussion. This can lead to better diagnoses and treatments in the long run.

What Are the Long-Terms Effects of Concussions?

After the Radiology study was released, NPR conducted an interview with Steven Flanagan, the co-director of the Concussion Center at NYU Langone Medical Center. Flanagan explained the potential long-lasting effects from even a single concussion, but he emphasized first that many people who have a concussion “do fairly well and become asymptomatic within a fairly short period of time.”
However, there’s a “significant minority” of patients—between 10 and 20 percent—who can develop chronic problems from a head injury. These symptoms can include mood-related problems (including depression and anxiety), in addition to problems with headaches and balance issues. As well, some concussion patients can experience difficulty thinking and dealing with general concentration.

If you’ve experienced a head injury and continue to have symptoms like those mentioned, you may have a claim. Contact an experienced attorney today to discuss your case.

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