A recent research offers more evidence of the possible long-term damage of head trauma, after discovering that people who suffer from adolescent concussion may be at higher risk of developing multiple sclerosis.
Concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) that can interfere with brain activity triggered by a sudden blow or jolt to the head.
Concussion signs and symptoms include loss of consciousness, dizziness, impaired balance and coordination, actions and mood changes, memory issues, and confusion. Symptoms typically begin immediately after a head injury, but sometimes it may take days for them to develop.
Although effects of concussion are typically short-lived, research has shown that head trauma can have long-term consequences for brain health in recent years.
For instance, one study published by Medical News Today in 2015 showed that professional football players who suffered concussion were more likely than those who did not suffer concussion to have memory impairments in later life.
Now, researchers have reported a link between adolescent concussion and the risk of later-life multiple sclerosis (MS).
In the Annals of Neurology, lead author Prof. Scott Montgomery of Oerebro University in Sweden and colleagues recently published their findings.
Concussion and MS: Researching the relation
MS is an estimated neurological condition that affects around 2.3 million people across the globe.
An irregular immune response, whereby the immune system mistakenly attacks and kills myelin, which is a fatty substance that protects nerve fibers in the central nervous system, is thought to cause the disease.
Prof. Montgomery and colleagues used data from the national Swedish Patient and Multiple Sclerosis registries for their study to identify 7,292 MS patients. All subjects were born from 1964 onwards, and between 1964 and 2012 MS diagnoses were made.
Each MS patient was individually matched with 10 people who did not have MS by sex, year of birth, age at diagnosis of MS and place of residence. The study included 80,212 participants in total.
The team also detected, using data from the Swedish Patient Registry, any diagnosis of concussion among the participants during childhood (between birth and 10 years of age) and adolescence (between 11 and 20 years of age).
MS risk increased more than twofold
The team found no link between childhood concussion and the likelihood of later-life MS.
The study, however, found that participants who sustained one adolescent concussion were 22 percent more likely to receive a diagnosis of later-life MS, while the risk of MS was more than doubled for those who suffered more than one concussion.
Previous research has shown that an irregular immune response that affects the brain may be caused by trauma to the head. The authors speculate that their findings could be explained by this method.
“Head trauma in adolescence, particularly if repeated, is associated with a raised risk of future multiple sclerosis, possibly due to initiation of an autoimmune process in the central nervous system.”
Prof. Montgomery says their results provide another justification for protecting adolescents from head injury, particularly where they are at risk of repetitive trauma, including from sports-related injuries.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2012, about 329,290 people in the United States who were treated for sports- or recreational-related injuries were diagnosed with concussion or some type of TBI.