Daily Bulletin


The Conversation

  • Written by The Conversation Contributor

News that actor Will Smith will boycott the Oscars has overshadowed promotional coverage of his latest film, Concussion, which examines the effects of repeated head injury.

In the film, Smith plays the real-life neuropathologist, Dr Bennet Omalu, who first discovered chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in the brains of professional American football players. CTE results in dementia-like symptoms, and Omalu suggested that long-term concussive hits were the likely cause.

Repeated concussion has long been associated with neurological dysfunction, and was first described in boxers as “punch drunk” syndrome in 1928. A growing body of evidence now suggests the damage sustained over multiple hits, even when they are “sub-concussive” — apparently symptomless — may increase the risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and CTE.

The link between concussion and irreversible brain injury is particularly troubling, especially given the dominance of Australia’s contact sporting culture.

A bump to the brain

Concussion is the most common and mild form of traumatic brain injury. The word comes from the Latin concutere, meaning “to shake violently”. Within the skull, the brain floats in a protective suspension of cerebrospinal fluid. Concussion occurs when either a direct impact or whiplash effect causes the brain to move inside the head and bump against the skull.

As a result, neurons are damaged and the brain may bruise at the site of impact. The required force is surprisingly minimal: losing consciousness is not a pre-requisite for concussion.

It’s estimated that 42 million people worldwide suffer a concussion each year. The majority result from falls or car accidents, and in many cases people don’t seek medical attention.

image The healthy brain of a normal 65 year old, the brain of a former NFL linebacker, John Grimsley (who suffered 8 concussions and died at age 45), and the brain of a 73 year old boxer who suffered from an extreme form of dementia. Brown spots show concentrations of Tau protein, the more brown spots, the greater the brain damage. WBUR Boston's NPR/Flickr, CC BY

Concussion is difficult to manage because many cases occur without observable findings like disorientation or incoordination, and nothing shows up on structural imaging tests like CT or MRI. Diagnosis often depends on self-reporting of symptoms: the hallmarks are confusion, memory loss, and headache, which might not be immediately apparent.

Lasting damage

Research clearly shows that even one “silent” sub-concussive blow to the head triggers changes in how neurons function. In the short-term, these changes don’t appear to have clear cognitive effects, but several studies point to consequences further down the track.

A study published in 2014, which followed 800,000 military conscripts over 30 years, found a statistically significant increase in the risk for developing young-onset, non-Alzheimer’s dementia after suffering one mild traumatic brain injury.

Another, which analysed over 160,000 trauma patients, found that one mild traumatic brain injury in patients aged 65 and older was associated with a 22–26% increase in dementia risk over the following five to seven years.

Even clearer is the link between repeated blows and the risk of chronic neurological and mental illness. The evidence is overwhelming: repeated concussion has been linked to lower cognitive performance in amateur athletes; in a survey of over 2000 retired professional American footballers, players with a history of multiple concussions were three times more likely to have been diagnosed with clinical depression; a study of the death certificates of former American pro footballers found that the death rate from neurodegenerative diseases was three times higher than the general population.

CTE, a progressive neurodegenerative disease, was first discovered by Omalu in the early 2000s. Omalu had conducted a post-mortem examination of the brain of Mike Webster, an NFL player who had endured around 25,000 violent collisions during his career and died aged 50.

Under the microscope, Omalu discovered aggregates of tau protein, which is also one of the two proteins that accumulate in Alzheimer’s disease. Since then, CTE has been found in 76 of 79 former NFL players who donated their brains to research.

Early diagnostic methods needed

Repeated head trauma, however, doesn’t always lead to CTE, and the role that an individual’s genetics plays is still unclear. Currently, the only way to diagnose CTE is post-mortem, which means it’s impossible to determine how prevalent the condition is in the general population, or catch the condition in an “early” phase.

The next challenge for traumatic brain injury researchers is to develop imaging techniques that can identify CTE in living brains. Ideally, an early diagnostic test would detect changes in brain function following head trauma, enabling preventative measures to be put in place.

To protect groups at high risk of repeated head trauma, which includes contact sport athletes, victims of domestic violence, and military personnel, we urgently need to find better methods to diagnose concussion.

Authors: The Conversation Contributor

Read more http://theconversation.com/what-does-concussion-do-to-the-brain-53224

Writers Wanted

Physical Therapist Talks About This New Massage Gun On The Block - The HYDRAGUN

arrow_forward

Too much information: the COVID work revolution has increased digital overload

arrow_forward

Ammonite: the remarkable real science of Mary Anning and her fossils

arrow_forward

The Conversation
INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

Politics

Prime Minister's Remarks to Joint Party Room

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it is great to be back in the party room, the joint party room. It’s great to have everybody back here. It’s great to officially welcome Garth who joins us. Welcome, Garth...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB

BEN FORDHAM: Scott Morrison, good morning to you.    PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Ben. How are you?    FORDHAM: Good. How many days have you got to go?   PRIME MINISTER: I've got another we...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News

KIERAN GILBERT: Kieran Gilbert here with you and the Prime Minister joins me. Prime Minister, thanks so much for your time.  PRIME MINISTER: G'day Kieran.  GILBERT: An assumption a vaccine is ...

Daily Bulletin - avatar Daily Bulletin

Business News

Getting Ready to Code? These Popular and Easy Programming Languages Can Get You Started

According to HOLP (History Encyclopedia of Programing Languages), there are more than 8,000 programming languages, some dating as far back as the 18th century. Although there might be as many pr...

News Co - avatar News Co

Avoid These Mistakes When Changing up Your Executive Career

Switching up industries is a valid move at any stage in your career, even if you’re an executive. Doing so at this stage can be a lot more intimidating, however, and it can be quite difficult know...

News Co - avatar News Co

4 Costly Mistake To Avoid When Subdividing Your Property

As a property developer or landowner, the first step in developing your land is subdividing it. You subdivide the property into several lots that you either rent, sell or award to shareholders. ...

News Co - avatar News Co



News Co Media Group

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion