Concussions may cause memory problems in the long-run

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.

Dr. Raina Gupta, neurologist at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago, said sports are a major cause of brain injury in children and young adults.

“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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Comments

2 Comments

  1. What about someone who may have had a concussion 40 years ago??

  2. This article is misleading. First, the conclusion that “concussions may be responsible for more long-term brain damage, including thinking and memory problems, than previously suspected” is contradicted by the later statement ” the scores on the thinking and memory tests were the same for injured and non-injured participants;” this does not demonstrate “thinking and memory problems,” only some changes in brain scans.

    In addition, the original article includes people with moderate brain injury as well as simple concussion. People with mild concussion had initial symptoms for memory problems for about 2 to 3 hours; the people with moderate brain injury had cognitive changes for 116 hours (4 to 5 days). The article also states that 30 of their 53 original subjects did not participate in follow-up, possibly due to “the mild nature of our participants’ injuries (possibly making them less likely to devote further time to the study)….” They also noted that participants’ who chose to return one year later “were either likely to have greater ongoing symptoms, or be influenced by socioeconomic or medical-legal factors (whereby a potential diagnosis may be seen as advantageous).” Last, the only cognitive functions that were analyzed in this study was word reading and the speed at which a person could recall words that begin with a specific letter (verbal fluency). There was no reported data on memory or new learning. There is little basis for stating that “mild to moderate concussions may be responsible for more long-term brain damage, including thinking and memory problems…”

    The reality of concussion is that most people recover from a single, simple concussion without problems. However, prevention is the best medicine. I agree with Dr. Gupta that “if a child is having repeated concussions, parents should consider a new, lower impact sport.”

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.