If you or someone you love suffers a concussion in San Marcos, it is important to know how that traumatic brain injury (TBI) could have effects years later. Much of the current news about head trauma and long-term effects concerns chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative disease of the brain that researchers believe results from multiple bumps or blows to the head. CTE is not the only possible long-term effect of sustaining a single—or multiple—concussions when you are younger. According to a recent article in Popular Science, a new study published in Neurology suggests that a single concussion “can significantly increase the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.”
Even a Single, Mild Brain Injury can Have Effects Decades Later
The new study was conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco. Their research indicates that the amount of a person’s increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease after sustaining a mild TBI is “contingent on how severe the brain injury was, but even a mild brain injury raised the likelihood of Parkinson’s by as much as 56%.” Some of the most common mild traumatic brain injuries are concussions. To clarify, if you sustain a single concussion in your lifetime, your risk of developing Parkinson’s disease could increase by up to 56% in comparison with a person who has never sustained a concussion or another TBI.
Given that about 42 million people sustain concussions each year around the globe, the results of this study could have a significant impact on how we think about the effects of traumatic brain injuries. The researchers came to their conclusion after looking at health records of nearly 326,000 American military veterans between the ages of 31 and 65. The authors of the study classified the brain injuries from mild to severe.
Understanding the Development of Parkinson’s Disease
The study lasted for a period of 12 years. At the beginning of the study, none of the veterans had signs or symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. However, about 50% of them had sustained at least a mild TBI previously. By the end of the 12-year study period, 1,462 of the patients had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and 949 of those patients previously suffered a TBI. In other words, nearly 65% of those who developed Parkinson’s disease had sustained a brain injury. For those with a severe TBI, the risk of developing Parkinson’s increased by 83%.
Parkinson’s disease a “a neurodegenerative disorder that disrupts the nervous system and affects motor control.” While researchers have yet to clarify all underlying causes of the disease, family history, age, and genetic factors appear to play a role. Now, history of brain injury also seems to be a factor. At the same time, researchers emphasize that while the findings of the study seem startling, an average person’s risk of developing Parkinson’s disease is still very low. As such, the study results should encourage more research into the link between Parkinson’s and TBI, but it should not unnecessarily raise alarm among the general population.
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(image courtesy of Sean Brown)