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Risks of repeated brain trauma

Traumatic brain injuries can have long-term consequences for behavior, cognition and functional abilities. Thus, no TBI should go unexamined. Massachusetts patients who have undergone repeated head injuries should be aware of the potential for neurodegeneration over time.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that mild injuries, such as concussions, account for approximately 75 percent of the TBIs that occur annually. TBIs can cause wide-ranging, short- and long-term effects, including shifts in emotion, sensation, language and thinking. Brain trauma also can contribute to neurodegenerative disorders and epilepsy.

When mild TBIs occur repeatedly, patients’ outcomes become more severe. Death may result if the injury is repeated within hours, days or even weeks of the original brain trauma. Repetitious head trauma over a longer span of time may lead to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which is a degenerative disorder that at present is only identifiable after the patient’s death.

The Mayo Clinic reports that although CTE is believed to be rare, its prevalence is unclear. Sports that have a high incidence of repeated concussions among players, such as football, soccer and rugby, may trigger this condition. Other victims of CTE have included patients with poorly controlled epilepsy and those who suffered physical abuse.

CTE may cause atrophy in certain areas of the brain, leading to some of the cognitive and emotional changes noted in simpler cases of TBI. This condition may also contribute to Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.

It is important to see a doctor after any head injury, regardless of severity. It is also crucial for patients to receive care if they are experiencing problems with memory, behavioral changes or suicidal thoughts, which may be indicators of brain trauma or CTE.

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