More individuals between the ages of one to 44 die from brain injuries than from any other type of injury. In an effort to better understand the human brain and how brain injuries occur, medical researchers are tirelessly conducting studies and attempting to make sense of the data these studies yield.
In a recent blog, we discussed a particularly common and damaging type of brain injury known as a diffuse axonal injury. As we noted, this type of brain injury typically results from “the brain moving back and forth in the skull due to acceleration or deceleration.” Individuals who suffer this particular type of brain injury often experience cognitive impairments that may be long-term to permanent in nature.
While previously doctors and medical researchers believed that any damage suffered after a so-called mild brain injury like a concussion was only temporary in nature, more recent research indicates that concussions can “lead to long-term cognitive impairments surprisingly often.” What’s more, researchers have been able to determine how and why such impairments occur.
When an individual suffers a concussion in a motor vehicle or sports-related accident, the brain’s axons are rapidly stretched to accommodate the rapid movement. When an individual suffers a severe traumatic brain injury, these axons may actually rupture which is easily detected via a brain scan. However, when an individual suffers a concussion, axons may become deformed which inhibits their normal functioning, but is more difficult to detect and diagnose. While some damaged axons are able to mend fully, in others a “self-destruct process” is triggered whereby the axon’s structure begins to break down.
This type of research is vital in providing a better understanding of the long-term damage that may result from concussion injuries. For individuals who have personally or who have had a child who suffered a concussion, it’s important to know that the full impact of such an injury may not be apparent for months or even years.
Source: University of Pennsylvania, “”Mild Traumatic Brain Injury an Oxymoron:” New Protein Biomarker Highlights Damaged Brain Wiring After Concussion, Finds Penn Study,” Karen Kreeger, Nov. 25, 2015