Recent Study Explores the Link Between Concussions and Multiple Sclerosis
Any time you or a loved one experiences a head injury, panic is the expected immediate response. A blow to the head, whether in a car accident, on a football field, or from a fall, is frightening due to the unknown impact on the brain. While there are several types of traumatic brain injury, a concussion is among the most common type; and as we’ll explore below, while the accident itself happens in the blink of an eye, the effects of a traumatic brain injury can last a lifetime.
A recent study from Sweden explores the link between concussions and Multiple Sclerosis (MS). The focus of this particular study is the correlation between concussions in adolescents, and the development of MS in the same adolescents later in life. To fully understand the implications, it is important to understand the definition of a concussion, to understand MS, and to learn how researchers describe the increased risk between the two.
Definition of a Concussion
A concussion is a form of a traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by a sudden blow or jolt to the head, which can interfere with brain function. Symptoms of a concussion can include:
- Loss of consciousness
- Poor balance and coordination
- Changes in mood and behavior
- Memory problems and confusion
Symptoms are often short-lived; however, the implications for overall brain health are long term. It is important to note that both closed and open head injuries produce concussions. A potentially serious side effect of concussions is the development of a blood clot on the brain; this condition can cause severe damage to the brain, and in many cases, death.
Understanding Multiple Sclerosis
According to the Multiple Sclerosis Society, MS is an unpredictable and often disabling disease of the central nervous system that affects 2.3 million people worldwide. This neurological disease attacks the immune system by disrupting the flow of information between the brain and body, as well as within the brain itself. By mistakenly attacking myelin, the fatty substance that surrounds and protects nerve fibers, the disease creates scar tissue and damages nerve fibers. This damage results in the brain and spinal cord receiving distorted nerve impulses. Symptoms of MS include tingling, numbness, slurred speech, and blurred vision.
Unfortunately, MS is not a curable disease. Medical strategies usually include modifying or slowing the course of the disease. Other strategies include preventing relapses, improving function, and focusing on emotional health. Care involves a comprehensive team, including a neurologist. Medications and rehabilitation services concentrating on strength exercises remain helpful tools in managing MS, and mental health professionals provide support for anxiety, depression, and mood changes.
Patients with MS are prone to exacerbations; inflammation of the central nervous system. Exacerbation attacks range from moderate to severe, and can last for several months. The attacks severely affect a person’s ability to work and function. Doctors treat severe exacerbations with high-dose corticosteroids.
While not curable, the disease is manageable with the right team of doctors and care. Exacerbations, emotional distress, and physical pain, however, follow MS patients all their lives.
Studying the Link Between the Two
A study by Professor Scott Montgomery and colleagues at Örebro University in Sweden focused on the link between concussions and MS. Reporting their findings in the Annals of Neurology, the researchers identified a link between concussion in adolescence and the risk for MS later in life. The study participants who experienced one concussion in adolescence were 22 percent more likely to receive a later-life MS diagnosis. The study also reveals that the risk of MS increases more than twofold for participants who suffer more than one concussion.
Adolescents and Head Injuries
Previous research theorized the connection between head trauma and abnormal immune system responses that damage the brain. The Sweden study confirmed that head trauma in adolescence, especially if repeated, can initiate an abnormal autoimmune response of the central nervous system. This response places the adolescents at greater risk for developing MS later in life.
Long-Term Effects of a TBI
- 57 percent are moderate or severely disabled
- 55 percent do not have a job but were employed at the time of injury
- 50 percent return to the hospital at least once
- 33 percent rely on others for help with everyday life
A moderate or severe traumatic brain injury often permanently affects a patient’s quality of life. Patients experience a lifetime of physical, cognitive, emotional, and sometimes behavioral challenges. Those patients who experienced a TBI in the form of a concussion as an adolescent further face the additional risk of developing MS.
An incredible 70 percent of concussions in adolescent athletes derive from high school sports. These concussions result from a variety of sources, such as colliding with another athlete or sustaining serious falls. Adolescents also experience concussions in car accidents. Awareness of the study linking a possible risk of adolescents, concussions, and MS, provides parents with helpful knowledge in protecting their teens. Alerting doctors of their awareness of the risk is an important first step in monitoring their care.
The long-term financial effects of a serious brain injury can include economic losses due to missed work for parents, medical bills, and the expense of continuing care upon release from the hospital.
After seeking medical attention, it is imperative that you consult a Florida brain injury attorney as soon as possible. Traumatic brain injuries, either moderate or severe, often alter the victim’s life permanently. While the financial implications can be astounding, such as lost wages, medical bills, or the cost of continued care, this is but one part of the overall impact; victims of brain injuries may suffer permanent, debilitating damage to ordinary thoughts, moods, behavior, and ability to live and function.
A traumatic brain injury is a serious matter that leaves an adolescent with an uncertain future; or worse, one that might lead to a diagnosis of MS.
The Dolman Law Group proudly serves Tampa Bay, Florida, and the surrounding areas, and ensures every client receives the attention necessary in the aftermath of a serious injury. Contact us online or call (727) 451-6900 for a free consultation with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, Florida 33765