Concussion

By a new study of more than 300,000 U.S. veterans, if anyone has ever had a mild concussion, his/her risk of developing Parkinson’s disease increases by 56 percent.

Dr. Raquel Gardner, the study author, told that as upwards of 40 percent of adults have had a traumatic brain injury or concussion, so these findings are concerning. She is an assistant professor of neurology at the University of California, San Francisco, and the San Francisco VA Medical Center. However, Gardner stressed that the findings do not imply that everyone who has ever had a concussion is to develop the degenerative neurological disorder that affects that coordination of movement. She said that even in this study, the vast majority of the veterans with traumatic brain injury (TBI) did not develop the disease.

The vice president of medical communications for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, Dr. Rachel Dolhun pointed out that the lifetime risk of Parkinson’s is most probably around 1 to 2 percent. Hence a greater than 50 percent hike in that risk is not as alarming as it seems. Dolhun said that having a TBI does not definitively equate with getting Parkinson’s disease and the risk is still pretty small.

However, these findings do lend credence to the idea that some professional athletes have got Parkinson’s disease as a consequence of their athletic careers. The most popular probably is the boxer, Muhammad Ali. Gardner explained that they would never know definitively, but it is absolutely a possibility. She added that many have suspected that his head injuries contributed to his Parkinson’s disease, but it is impossible to confirm.

By Gardner, the earlier research has linked TBI and Parkinson’s disease, but the design of the new study and large size makes it “among the most definitive.” Both Dolhun and Gardner said that there are some plausible theories as to how a brain injury may lead to Parkinson’s.

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