Repetitive Brain Trauma has Long Term Implications

By | August 18, 2010

A recent research article examined the links between professional sports athletes who received multiple concussions in their careers, and the probability of developing chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain condition that results in muscle weakness, depression, memory loss, and progressive dementia.

As with most research journal articles, it is wordy and couched with lots of caveats, but the basic message is this: Repeated concussions and brain injuries are bad for you.

This isn’t a shocking research conclusion.  What has shocked the professional sports world, especially the NFL, is that some players in their 20’s and 30’s with multiple concussions have the brain of an 80 year old with Alzheimer’s or advanced dementia.

The reality is the human brain can be fragile in the face of repeated trauma.  It also doesn’t matter whether it’s a 100lb snowboarder running into a tree or a 280lb linebacker running into his opponent, their brains will face the same impact trauma and resulting risk for cognitive problems.

The same applies to military service members who have been exposed to repeated blast related TBI.  Evidence suggests that rates for major depression and other cognitive problems are much higher for soldiers who were exposed to multiple blast related brain injuries.

Baseline cognitive testing (before a concussion or TBI) and testing after an event will help guide health care providers to the best therapeutic interventions, especially in the first few weeks after an injury.