Concussions may make the brain age faster

August 1, 2012

Topic: Injury prevention

Impacts to the head may cause the brain to age faster.

Researchers from the University of Michigan School of Kinesiology discovered that impacts to the head may accelerate the aging process in the brain. This study underscores the importance of injury prevention in sports.

For their study, the team of scientists conducted brain imaging scans on college students, some of whom did and others who did not have a history of concussions, while the subjects took computerized tests. All research participants looked and behaved the same. However, the researchers found subtle differences upon closer inspection.

Results showed that the brains of students who had no history of concussions displayed electrical activity within a larger area.

The researchers suspect that this effect is cumulative.

"So, if you played soccer and sustained some head impacts and maybe one concussion, then you may have a little risk. If you went on and played in college and took more head balls and sustained two more concussions, you're probably at a little bigger risk. Then if you play professionally for a few years, and take more hits to the head, you increase the risk even more," said lead author Steven Broglio.

However, this is not to suggest that young athletes who sustain a concussion will automatically have an aging brain, according to the researchers. Lifestyle factors, such as smoking and exercise, may also be influential.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of emergency room visits for sports-related brain injuries increased by 60 percent between 2001 and 2009.

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