Concussions and Alzheimer's


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This has been a highly debated topic. With the recent settlement between the NFL players union and the NFL, this topic has really been brought to the spotlight. With more and more emerging studies, the evidence seems to be racking up that concussions do cause Alzheimer's.

One study "looked at 64 patients who experienced concussions and compared their MRI brain scans a year after their injury to those of 15 healthy patients over the same time period." They found that damage to white matter in the brain was similar to those of Alzheimer's patients.

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Formally concussed patients suffer from similar "sleep-wake disturbances that plague Alzheimer's patients. These problems tend to make other cognitive issues, such as memory lapses and changes in behavior, worse." This doesn't mean all concussions cause Alzheimer's, but with advances there could be ways to prevent it.

These studies, although strictly observational, do provide some intel on how concussions affect the brain over time. Unfortunately, experimental studies are not ethical if you gave people concussions to do studies. The studies also require much time. Alzheimer's doesn't develop until much later on in life. One study that should be done is the correlation between people who had concussions and if they later developed Alzheimer's. Here is another study having to do with former NFL players and concussions.

Although these studies are promising, many more need to be done to prove that this correlation does lead to causation of Alzheimer's. Do you think these studies are worth looking into and what are other ways we could do experimental studies?



4 Comments

Being a hockey player my whole life, hitting my head was a regular thing for me. Although I never had a concussion, my older brother had many. In fact, they told him that past a certain point, if he got one more, he could never play the sport again. His repetative trauma impacted the brain's soft tissue. In an article about the American Assiociation for the Advancement of Science, they state even one specific head trauma or concussion can have effects for sometimes several decades. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/256518.php Not only is alzheimers a main concern, but the article also found older athletes who showed signs and symptoms of Parkinsons. This is a scary and brutal thought...On the behalf of the NFL and other sports organiztions it is the coach/ trainers responsibility to make sure their team members are wearing the safest equiptment, ensuring little injury.

Concussions are a huge problem today, not only for professional athletes but also for athletes in college, high school, and even middle school. As Katelyn mentioned in the previous comment, Altzheimers is not the only concern, especially for kids since their brain is still in the process of development. Results of a concussion range from temporary memory loss to brain swelling. These kids are in a critical stage of development and are learning important things in school. If they suffer a concussion, the recovery process is long and inhibits kids from performing well in school and participating in sports. In high school, my friend suffered a concussion and could not come to school for full days for several months. She struggled to catch up on her work and could not participate in sports. She also suffered headaches and fatigue on a daily basis. Concussions are affecting kids everywhere, and there needs to be more protective measures taken on these young developing brains.
Here is a link that describes the concern for concussions in children.
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/concussion-in-children/AN02059

Given that the proteins that produce Alzheimer's grow in the spaces in between brain cells, and this space is disrupted upon hard impact to the head, it would seem possible that the two could be linked. After doing further research on the topic, it would seem that the symptoms of both concussions and Alzheimer's are actually very similar and both may lead to learning problems and depression.
http://healthland.time.com/2013/06/19/concussion-and-alzheimers-patients-show-similar-brain-changes/

Concussions have always been a huge problem and recently a growing problem across all levels of athletics. It makes sense that damaging the brain can have long lasting effects especially considering that brain cells cannot regenerate. But let's take a look at the bigger picture. Sure these people that were studied were qualified concussion bearing test subjects but what else did they experience that could have lead them to wind up with alzheimers later on? Anyhow, check out some new advances in equipment that are intended to prevent concussions so that the huge problem that is concussions, can be rid from our lives. http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/eye-on-football/20097921/new-riddell-360-helmet-future-of-concussion-prevention

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