Despite my advanced years, with my family’s history of Alzheimer’s and dementia, I confess that anything that affects the brain gets my attention.
A new study suggests athletes with a history of concussion may show more brain injury from a later concussion, particularly in middle regions of the brain that are more susceptible to damage, when compared to athletes with no history of concussion. The research is published in the August 25, 2021, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The athletes participated in sports like football, volleyball and soccer.
“We know concussions may have long-term effects on the brain that last beyond getting a doctor’s clearance to return to play,” said study author Tom A. Schweizer, PhD, of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Canada. “It is unclear, however, to what extent the effects of repeated concussion can be detected among young, otherwise healthy adults. We found even though there was no difference in symptoms or the amount of recovery time, athletes with a history of concussion showed subtle and chronic changes in their brains.”
Concussions are the most common form of mild brain injury, affecting over 42 million people worldwide annually. Their long-term risks — especially for athletes and members of the military — are well documented, with studies showing possible connections to neurodegenerative conditions like chronic traumatic encephalopathy and Alzheimer’s disease.
The immediate effects of a concussion are well known, such as alterations in the brain’s structure and activity seen soon after injury. In addition to symptoms like headaches and light sensitivity, a concussion often causes difficulty concentrating or trouble processing new information that can linger for a few weeks before clearing up. But less is understood about how a concussion from earlier in our lives can impact the brain and cognitive health as we age.
I have posted numerous times about the benefits of a good night’s sleep. Now it turns out that previous head injuries can also affect night time rest.
Every year, thousands of people end up in the emergency room or hospital with minor head injuries, often diagnosed as concussions. Concussions usually result from falls, violence, bicycle accidents or sports injuries.
In the first days following a severe concussion, it is common to experience headaches, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, an increased need for sleep or difficulty sleeping.
“Most people fully recover from their problems after a short time, but some individuals suffer long-term problems that affect their quality of life, work and school,” says PhD candidate researcher Simen Berg Saksvik at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s Department of Psychology.
I am a big football fan so I get news items from the NFL regularly. This morning I got one from Jeffrey Immelt and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell explaining all the NFL is doing to protect its players against the danger of concussions.
I was fascinated to read the following, “Those concerns include the risk of concussion, which is difficult to diagnose, treat, and prevent. That’s in large part because there continue to be great holes in the scientific and medical understanding of the brain.” My emphasis.
I started reading about the brain as I studied weight loss and calorie consumption. I bet you have no idea what percent of your daily calorie intake goes to power the brain which accounts for less than 3 percent of your body weight. (Hint: You can find the answer along with a ton of other fascinating facts on my Page Important facts about your brain – and exercise.)
The NFL said, “We are making a tangible commitment toward accelerating progress in our knowledge of the brain – how it works, how it can be better protected, and how we can help it to recover from injury.”
Last year the NFL partnered with Under Armour announcing a $60 million dollar “Head Health Initiative” aimed at jump-starting new research and tech into the brain. This week they announced the first winners.
This is great news. I think this infusion of money will result in some breakthroughs in the field of brain injury study as well as general knowledge about the brain that will benefit all of us not just the guys knocking each other’s heads in on the field. Kudos to the NFL for this initiative. I look forward to the news we get over the next few years on this most important organ in the body.