Falls are a leading cause of injury and hospitalization among older adults, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 1 in 5 falls cause an injury such as broken bones or a head injury. New European research suggests that concussive head injuries can affect brain function far longer than current federal health guidance suggests.
According to a recent CBC News Health report, the study, published in the journal Brain, found that half of the research participants experienced symptoms from their concussion six months after their injury. Current data indicates that hundreds of thousands of Canadians suffer concussions each year, and although recovery time can vary, medical experts have until now predicted that most people will be back to normal within 10 days to 4 weeks.
The University of Cambridge researchers with the Cognition and Consciousness Imaging Group analyzed 108 brain scans of patients who had recently experienced concussions to look for structural changes in the brain. Scientists noted a significant increase in activity between the thalamus and the rest of the brain shortly after a concussion, indicating this area was working harder than usual to communicate. The more active these areas were, the greater the likelihood that patients had symptoms of concussion that included headaches, fatigue and sleep problems.
As researchers learn more about the dangers and lingering symptoms of concussion, concern over head injuries has grown. There is growing evidence that concussion may cause long-lasting cognitive and emotional symptoms that affect quality of life. More work can be done to protect athletes from repetitive head injuries and reduce the fall risk for older adults with greater education about prevention. Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) among professional athletes who have sustained repetitive head injuries can lead to personality changes and early-onset dementia. Brain injury can also increase the risk of mental health issues, according to recent research.
While there is still more study needed to fully understand patients who experience lasting concussive symptoms, it is hoped that this new research will better inform healthcare providers and highlight the need for greater long-term medical support and treatment following a head injury. It’s also vital that people who suffer a concussion seek medical attention and follow-up care to help identify and treat any lasting symptoms.