Traditionally, concussions are classified as a “mild” traumatic brain injury. But the truth is no brain injury is really minor—all can have a serious impact. As a result, more and more research is being conducted on concussions, one of the most common forms of brain injury. The conversation has been primarily geared toward athletes as they are at greater risk of sustaining multiple concussions throughout their lifetime. But a new study from NYU Langone School of Medicine has found that it doesn’t take a string of concussions to cause permanent damage to the brain—it can take only one.
Researchers used an MRI to examine the brains of 19 people who had sustained a concussion one year after their injury, as well as 12 people who had not sustained a concussion. Those who had sustained a concussion were still experiencing neurological and psychological symptoms one year after their injury. They found that those people who had suffered a concussion had measurable losses of grey and white matter—in other words, their brains had shrunk. The specific areas in the brain that shrunk are in regions linked to anxiety, memory and attention problems.
As an aside, it is very important to remember that these findings are early. Not everyone who sustains a concussion will experience these prolonged symptoms or brain shrinkage. But what this study does show is that even just one concussion can have a serious, long-lasting impact. The findings also stress the importance of seeing a brain injury specialist post-concussion, especially if your symptoms continue.
Tell us what you think. How are you protecting yourself and your loved ones from concussions?