There’s now even more evidence that concussions and mild traumatic brain injuries should be taken seriously.
A new study in the journal Neurology finds that even mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) — characterized by loss of consciousness for 30 minutes or less — can increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease by 56 percent. Parkinson’s is an incurable and degenerative neurological disorder that causes tremors, stiffness in limbs and walking, and balance issues and impacts.
Using Veterans Health Administration (VHA) electronic medical records from 2002 to 2014, the researchers identified 325,870 vets ages 18 and older who had a TBI and age-matched the group to a random sample of veterans who did not have a TBI or any signs of the disease. The results showed that those with moderate to severe TBI have an 83 percent increased risk of Parkinson's disease; those with mild TBI have a 56 percent risk.
“We were not surprised that there was an association with TBI and Parkinson’s because there have been other studies that have shown this,” says Kristine Yaffe, M.D., the principal investigator of the study and a professor at University of California, San Francisco. “We were surprised that the mild TBI carried almost as much risk as moderate to severe.”
Yaffe said the study is part of an ongoing effort by the Department of Defense and the VA to understand more about the impact of blast injuries from vets who have served in Afghanistan and Iraq.