Concussions may cause memory problems in the long-run
New research suggests even mild to moderate concussions may be responsible for more long-term brain damage, including thinking and memory problems, than previously suspected.
The study was published in an online issue of Neurology, the medical journal for the American Academy of Neurology, and compared 53 people with mild and moderate traumatic brain injuries to 33 people with no injury.
Participants completed a round of thinking and memory tests and an MRI scan six days after the injury. According to a news release, researchers found patient scores for tests evaluating thinking and memory skills were 25 percent lower than the non-injured participants.
“Most of the studies thus far have focused on people with severe and chronic traumatic brain injury,” said study author Andrew Blamire, PhD, of Newcastle University in the United Kingdom, in a news release. “We studied patients who had suffered clinically mild injuries often from common accidents such as falling from a bicycle, or slow speed car accidents. This finding is especially important, as 90 percent of all traumatic brain injuries are mild to moderate.”
One year after the injury, 23 participants returned for follow up testing and scans. While the scores on the thinking and memory tests were the same for injured and non-injured participants, researchers still found some areas of brain damage among the injured group, according to a news release.
“These results show that thinking skills were recovering over time,” Blamire said in a news release. “The areas of brain damage were not as widespread across the brain as previously, but focused in certain areas of the brain, which could indicate that the brain was compensating for the injuries.”
A concussion is caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head, or some kind of blow to the body, such as fall, which can cause the head to jerk back and forth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC says most people recover quickly from a concussion, but symptoms can last for weeks or even longer.
“It’s extremely important for physicians, parents and coaches not to let kids who have been injured with a concussion get back onto the field until their symptoms have fully resolved,” Dr. Gupta says. “We should be more sensitive to concussions in children, since we don’t understand the long-term effects to their developing brains. And if a child is having repeated concussions, parents should consider a new, lower impact sport.”
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