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Episode 29: The Long Term Consequences of Concussion

A brain injury occurs in the United States every 9 seconds. In this week’s episode of Brain Injury Insider, host Michael V. Kaplen discusses the long term consequences of concussions.

With a brain injury occurring to someone in the United States every nine seconds, the chronic effects of a traumatic brain injury must receive proper attention and consideration by public health officials, medical professionals, insurance carriers and our legislators.

Recent medical research provides further support, that concussion can lead to chronic long term consequences. Any brain injury can last a lifetime with resulting long term disability. A concussion may trigger progressive degenerative changes affecting not only the brain, but other organs, systems and functions. And repetitive head injury also can produce chronic neurological and other health consequences.

I would like to take this time to review some of the most recent medical literature on the chronic effects of concussions, which leads to further support that there is nothing mild about a mild brain injury.

In a recent large study of over nine thousand individuals who were followed for up to 10 years, published in the Journal of Neurotrauma and entitled “Concussion and Risk of Chronic Medical and Behavioral Health Comorbidities” researchers found higher cardiovascular risks, including hypertension, obesity and diabetes.

Psychiatric illnesses, including depression, were also higher in this group, as were neurological disorders such as seizures and strokes.

These risks were not confined to those in older ages and were observed in patients between the ages of 18 and 30.

Most of these comorbidities develop within five years after a concussion.

The study found a significant increase in sleep disorders, anxiety, and depression in all age groups.

Sleep disorder, weight gain, chronic fatigue, all may be contributing factors to the higher incidence of cardiovascular disease which was observed in this study. And other recent studies show an increased risk of stroke and seizure disorder
following a concussion.

One study published earlier this year in the International Journal of Stroke entitled “Stroke Risk Following Traumatic Brain Injury”, found the risk of stroke to be increased by eighty six percent in all types of brain injury compared to individuals who never sustained a brain trauma. The risk remained elevated for upwards of five years.

Other past studies have shown increased risk of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

In the world of sports, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, also known as CTE, has been identified as caused by repetitive head trauma.

Although the immediate signs and symptoms of a concussion may resolve within hours, days or even months following the initial trauma, this invisible injury may still lead to lingering and substantial long term consequences.

TBI is a global health issue, which impacts upon the individual, his or her family, and society as a whole.

It’s important that these long term consequences, and their association with concussion receive further study and attention.

Concussions are more than just a bump on the head. All brain injuries must be taken seriously.

Adequate funding is needed to support further research.

Survivors need to receive proper care, which must be mandated in all insurance plans. And insurance carriers must be held accountable to provide coverage for this care.

Audio version

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