Mounting Evidence Brain Injuries Increase the Risk of Parkinson Disease and Dementia
A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of California in San Francisco (UCSF) has been making waves in the medical community. The study, spearheaded by assistant professor Raquel Gardner, MD, is titled Mild TBI and Risk of Parkinson Disease: A Chronic Effects of Neurotrauma Consortium Study and was published in the journal Neurology in May.
Assessing over 180,000 patients, the study is the most comprehensive to date to explore a potential link between brain injuries and Parkinson disease. The specific goal of the study was to determine whether or not traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI) contributed to the development of Parkinson disease in patients, and if so, to what degree. To that end, it found:
- Patients with a history of mTBI were at least 50 percent more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than those without mTBI
- Of the patients who were already diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, 65 percent were shown to have suffered an mTBI in the past
The findings contribute another data point in the mounting evidence that head injuries, and specifically brain trauma, appear to contribute substantially to the risk and development of Parkinson’s disease, dementia, and other neurodegenerative disorders.
Understanding Head Injury Terminology
The terminology used by researchers, medical professionals, and lawyers in litigation can be confusing. Here is a primer:
Acquired brain injuries (ABI): This is the terminology used for any brain injury which takes place after a person is born, i.e., the damage is related to an event rather than a congenital or genetic disorder. Car crashes, slip and fall injuries, sports injuries, or other accidents can be considered ABIs, however, non-traumatic causes for brain injury such as diseases including meningitis, encephalitis, or diabetes can also fall into this category. TBIs, mTBIs, and concussions are considered acquired brain injuries.
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI): Traumatic brain injuries are damages to the brain caused by external force, usually the result of a blow, sudden movement, or falling incident. In addition to physical disability, these kinds of injuries can cause behavioral, emotional, or cognitive disturbances.
- Mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI): Readers shouldn’t mistake the word mild used in this terminology to mean “unimportant” or “insignificant.” In fact, quite the opposite: as we’ve learned from the research mentioned earlier, mTBIs can have lasting negative effects. mTBIs are defined as traumatic events which result in a confused state and/or 30 minutes or less of unconsciousness.
- Concussions: Concussions are brain injuries considered less severe than mTBIs, but again, this does not detract from their potential severity. Concussion victims will have normal brain scan images, whereas mTBI victims will have abnormal brain scan images. However, concussion victims will still often have neurological disturbances, such as the inability to think clearly, short-term memory loss, or even amnesia.
In any of the above injury scenarios, loss of consciousness is not necessary for temporary or permanent damage to take place. In fact, mTBI victims who remained conscious after the injury event for dementia and/or other neurodegenerative disorders.
Symptoms of an Acquired Brain Injury
Aside from physical manifestations (for example, bleeding, swelling, or bruising) symptoms of a brain injury, whether resulting from TBI, mTBI or concussion, may include:
- Temporary or persistent nausea
- Confusion, delayed thinking, or feeling foggy
- General confusion
- Mood instability
- Sensory sensitivity, such as to light or sound
- Loss of senses, such as smell
Brain injuries are not always obvious. It is quite possible that only some or even none of the above symptoms may be present. Behavioral changes or other potential signs of damage can be so subtle that the victim and those around them may not even notice a change has taken place.
Individuals who have suffered a brain injury may find themselves at serious economic risk due to medical costs, extended treatment or therapy, and being unable to perform the essential tasks of their employment. This can lead to further complications including family problems, stress, anxiety, or depression.
Can ABI Lead to Parkinson Disease or Dementia Later in Life?
While everyone’s biology is to some extent unique, studies like the one mentioned above—and plenty of others—seem to indicate that brain trauma may indeed be a significant contributing factor to Parkinson disease and other disorders later in life.
Much of the public and academic focus on the relationship between brain injuries and dementia has been the result of these health concerns appearing in football players, martial artists, and other professional athletes.
However, the reality is that anyone who suffers a personal injury may be at risk for these kinds of complications. A slip and fall injury while grocery shopping can cause a concussion just the same as being tackled by a 350-pound linebacker—your brain doesn’t know the difference.
To make matters worse, research has indicated that less than half of mTBI or concussion patients visit a medical professional within 90 days after the injury has taken place. Geoffrey Manley, MD, PhD, another researcher and professor of neurosurgery at UCSF, has gone so far as to say that this problem is “a public health crisis that is being overlooked.”
Seeking Compensation After a Head Injury
At Dolman Law Group, our professional attorneys understand and sympathize with the emotional and financial strain caused by a traumatic brain injury. With so much research pointing to evidence that these kinds of injuries can lead to Parkinson disease and/or dementia down the line, suffering a head injury can be a frightening, stressful event for everyone involved. These difficulties affect not only the injured, but their family as well.
Precious few American families are prepared to face the challenges that can accompany a loved one’s brain injury alone. It can help to have an experienced legal advisor by your side who understands how to recover compensation for you from the parties responsible.
If you live in Tampa Bay, Florida, or the surrounding areas, and you’re interested in learning more about your legal rights after a brain injury, we invite you to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with us. We can be reached by dialing (727) 451-6900 or via our online contact form.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765