Scientists Believe Concussions Might Be More Serious Than First Thought
Scientists in the US have linked concussion to Alzheimer's disease, showing head injuries could be more serious than first thought.
In research posted in the Neurology journal, academics suggested the link to historical brain trauma and long-term neurological difficulties could be more intertwined than was originally hypothesised.
Mayo Clinic scientists based in Rochester, Minnesota, asked 589 older people to take part in a study beginning in 2004 and arranged for them to take a number of memory and cognitive tests, along with MRI or CT scans.
Results showed 448 of the 70 to 89-year-olds, who all lived in the Olmsted County of Minnesota, had no evidence of any brain damage, while 141 had mild cognitive impairment.
Roughly the same quantity of the sample that had these types of difficulties also reported having at least one concussion in the past that involved the loss of memory, unconsciousness or medical attention.
However, scientists were surprised how long ago some of these concussions happened, with the median age for these incidents taking place 21 for men and 32 for women.
Subjects that had experienced a concussion in the past were found to have higher Amyloid levels, which has been associated to Alzheimer's disease in previous research at other institutions.
This study has been welcomed by the US Alzheimer's Association. Keith Fargo, the foundation's director, was quoted by Healthline as saying: "It's an interesting piece of an overall puzzle.
"We're glad people are doing research in this area. We need to know more about head injury and dementia later in life."
Concussion has become a topic of serious debate in the UK over recent weeks.
Tottenham Hotspur's French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris suffered a head injury that left him unconscious after colliding with Everton's Romelu Lukaku as they both chased a ball in a game in early November.
However, medics passed him fit to continue playing, much to the disappointment of brain injury charity Headway, which believed the footballer should have been taken to hospital in case he suffered the delayed effects of concussion.
Research within this area this is very important in order for doctors to be able to make advances in treating and understanding the complexity of brain injuries and also in reducing the incidence and severity of Alzheimers.
"Dementia is a serious and debilitating condition for both the patient and their family and they deserve the best possible care. Such standards of treatment, as well as new innovative approaches, can only be provided if research continues into the potential causes of such conditions.
"I see first-hand in my professional work that people who have suffered from a brain injury do not always display obvious physical symptoms, with moderate concussion often going untreated, and with the effects of concussion being the subject of much debate in recent weeks, it will be interesting to see what further research in this area may uncover."
Neil Whiteley - Partner