In 2003 CDC sent a report to Congress on “mild” traumatic brain injuries. (MTBI, also sometimes called “concussion.”) The report cautioned that, contrary to past understanding, “mild” brain injuries can cause serious, permanent problems:
“In recent decades, public health and health care communities have become increasingly aware that the consequences of mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) may not, in fact, be mild. Epidemiologic research has identified MTBI as a public health problem of large magnitude, while clinical research has provided evidence that these injuries can cause serious, lasting problems.”
The open source journal Brain Science has just published a survey of literature demonstrating that a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) , otherwise known as concussion, is a complex pathophysiological process that can have a systemic effect on the body aside from solely impairing cognitive function. According to the article, “dysfunction in the autonomic nervous system (ANS) has been found to be a major factor in the symptomatology in TBI, including in mTBI” and can “induce abnormalities in organ systems throughout the body.” Read More
A topic frequently addressed in this blog is the building body of evidence showing that the minority of patients who have long term, sometimes permanent, symptoms following concussion typically experience those symptoms because of injury to the brain, not to achieve some “secondary gain.” Although scientists do not have a clear understanding about why some people are more vulnerable to these injuries, we know as discussed in prior posts, that certain factors can play a role, such as genetics, prior head injuries and a history of migraines. Two recently published studies contribute to our understanding that real pathology likely underlies most persistent symptoms and that this pathology can be identified with advanced neuroimaging techniques. Read More
University of Toronto researchers have just published an important longitudinal study in the peer-reviewed Journal of Neurotrauma following patients with Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS) based on a diagnosis of concussion in conformity with the international sport concussion criteria. This was the first longitudinal study that specifically excluded patients with contusions and hemorrhages identified by imaging (so-called “complicated” concussions), patients who tested positive on so-called “malingering” tests (the TOMM) and patients involved in litigation. Read More
In recent years a great deal of research has been done to identify an objective “biomarker” of concussion. As reported in this blog, some promise has been found in blood biomarkers (measuring plasma tau protein levels) and neuroimaging, such as the DTI MRI sequence. Unfortunately, these approaches are invasive and/or expensive and are not always a reliable indicator of concussion and concussion recovery. As reported in our November 27, 2016 blog post, until now, one of the most promising concussion screening tools was a series of vision tests endorsed by the Department of Defense.
Scientists at Northwestern University have now found a related, and what appears to be an even more precise and accurate tool, a measure of the brain’s electrophysiological response to sound. Read More
There’s new evidence supporting immediate removal of athletes from play following concussion.
A new study published in the September, 2016 issue of Pediatrics provides evidence that returning to play immediately following a sports related concussion, even without a “second impact” nearly doubles, on average, the length of time required to recover and exposes athletes to a greater risk of protracted symptoms. As the authors point out in their report, the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council stated in 2013 that
“the culture of sports negatively influences SRC [sports related concussion] reporting and that athletes, coaches, and parents do not fully acknowledge the risks of playing while injured.”
Neuroinflammation as a likely cause of persistent symptoms following traumatic brain injury (TBI), as well as increased risk of neurodegenerative complications, is leading to increased attention on anti-inflammatory strategies with diet, exercise, lifestyle and medication
Our May 28, 2015 blog post discussed the evidence offered by McMasters University researchers in support of their conclusion that the body’s immune response following injury can lead to unchecked, ultimately destructive neuroinflammation and that this likely underlies persistent symptoms following TBI as well as increased risk of neurodegenerative conditions such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and Alzheimers. The authors observed similar neuroinflammatory processes in patients without a history of head injury, such as patients with serious infections, PTSD and Depression. They also noted that subtle genetic differences may explain differences in inflammatory responses between patients, leading to different long term outcomes. The October 2015 issue of Trends in Neuroscience includes a review by Ohio State neuroscientists with further support for this new paradigm for understanding the brain’s response to injury. See “Priming the Inflammatory Pump of the CNS after Traumatic Brain Injury.” Read More
Research from the National Institute of Health, published in the August 3, 2015 issue of JAMA Neurology, shows that a protein that was until recently linked only to acute symptoms following traumatic brain injury, may also be responsible for chronic neurological symptoms, such as headache and dizziness, found in patients diagnosed with persistent post-concussion syndrome.
Tau is a protein known to play a significant role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Using ultra-sensitive technology, the researchers measured levels of tau in the blood months and years after injury. These levels correlated with the severity of post-concussive symptoms. If these findings are further confirmed, this could be the first biomarker that is sensitive and specific to ongoing TBI symptoms. Read More
The Radiology Society of North America has published a new study that identifies particular white matter brain injury patterns in patients with persistent depression and anxiety following mild traumatic brain injury (concussion or mTBI.) Read More
The April, 2015 issue of The American Surgeonreports on a retrospective study of 395 patients admitted to the ER following concussions (MTBI, or mild traumatic brain injury). The patients had “normal” Glascow Coma scores of 15 and normal CT scans and therefore met discharge criteria. The study found that a surprisingly high percentage of these patients (27%) had persistent deficits after neurocognitive testing and benefitted from referral for ongoing therapy. The study is authored by Hartwell et. al. and entitled “You Cannot Go Home: Routine Concussion Evaluation is Not Enough.” Read More