January 31, 2023
A new study has found that people who experience concussions could experience worse brain function in later life.
Researchers say that, following cognitive tests, those who suffered from three or more concussions endured poor brain health affecting their attention and complex planning abilities.
They also found those who have had four or more concussions showed much poorer attention, working memory and speed processing later in life.
The study analyzed 16,000 people, with 15,765 aged 50 to 90 reporting three or more concussions. It was led by teams at the University of Oxford and the University of Exeter.
The participants had suffered their last reported head injury an average of 30 years before the study. Their brain health was assessed through cognitive assessments annually for four years.
“What we found was that … you only really need to have three lifetime concussions to have some kind of cognitive deficits in the long term,” said Dr Matthew Lennon, the study’s lead author and PhD candidate at the University of New South Wales’s Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing.
“If you have multiple concussions in your teens, 20s, 30s and 40s, you will still be feeling the effects when you’re 70 or 80.”
The research, published in the Journal of Neurotrauma, forms part of a wider project known as the Protect study. This follows UK participants for up to 25 years to understand factors affecting brain health in later life.
The largest such study also found having only one moderate-to-severe concussion, or traumatic brain injury (TBI), can have a long-term impact on brain function, including memory.
Other brain effects from concussions include loss of consciousness, anterograde amnesia, and mental status changes.
The researchers have said the data indicates athletes suffering multiple concussions should be counselled about the risk of continuing to play sport.
The Protect study is conducted entirely online, and is open to new participants aged 40 and over. To find out more, click here.