Close to 2 million Americans suffer a traumatic brain injury each year. These injuries are defined by damage to the brain resulting from an external mechanical force, such as rapid acceleration or deceleration, impact, blast waves, or penetration by a projectile. Previous studies have determined that repetitive head injuries have log term effects such as the development of cognitive impairments like Alzheimer’s.
However, a recent study conducted by the University of Glasgow examined whether a single trauma to the brain had any long-term effects. The study looked at post-mortem brains of long-term survivors of a single traumatic brain injury and compared them with controls that were age matched and had never suffered a traumatic brain injury. The brains, which had a single traumatic brain injury, had a far higher density of plaques and tangles than those without a traumatic brain injury.
Doctors indicated that these were the signatures of a condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which was previously only known to occur in people who have suffered repetitive head injuries. Doctors now believe the consequences of a single traumatic brain injury go well beyond their initial effects and initiate a long-term neurodegeneration that further injures the brain.
Traumatic brain injuries should always be handled with the utmost care. As this recent study shows a single injury may appear to be short term but can have serious debilitating effects in the future.