Long-Term Effects of Multiple Concussions

September 21st, 2010 | Sources: Wall Street Journal

Subjects: ,

A small study has linked multiple blows to the head, sustained during athletic competition, to a degenerative brain condition similar to Lou Gehrig’s disease.

In the study, Bob Cantu, a neurosurgeon at Boston University Medical Center and colleagues examined brain and spinal cord tissue from a dozen former athletes that had died. Three of them had been diagnosed with ALS before their deaths.

Each athlete had sustained multiple concussions. One of them had at least 10 concussions. The subjects were found to have protein deposits known as tau and TDP-43 in their brains and spinal cords. These proteins have previously been found in the brains, but not the spinal cords of patients with ALS.

The fact that similar proteins were found, but in a different distribution from “classic” ALS suggests that the neurodegenerative disorder associated with multiple head trauma is similar to, but distinct from the classic disease.

Repetitive head injuries include both full-blown concussions and less severe blows to the head, said Robert Stern, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. The study co-author added that “concussions are really the tip of the iceberg.”

This doesn’t mean children shouldn’t participate in contact sports, cautioned Gerard Gioia, chief of pediatric neuropsychology at Children’s National Medical Center. “The benefits of kids’ activities in sports, in recreation, in physical exercise far outweigh the risks,” Gioia told the Journal. “But that doesn’t mean we ignore the risk.”

Previous studies have suggested that repetitive head trauma increases the risk of other degenerative brain disorders including Parkinson’s disease (think about Muhammad Ali) and Alzheimer’s disease.

The write-up appears in the Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology,



  1. Melbourne Concussion | 5/12/10


    Nice post, interesting one!
    Concussions is not as simple situation that can be neglected by people! Research has demonstrated that a considerable number of people who have sustained concussion or a mild brain injury actually show brain damage on brain scans.

  2. procyclidine | 22/01/11

    Are you sure that Muhammad Ali had Parkinson’s disease ??

  3. jike81 | 30/03/11

    just suffered my 8th concussion a week ago.my 7th concussion ended my three year college(D2)football career and made my life a living hell for three months. i have seen every type of brain doctor out there neurosurgist…phyconeurosurgist. the effects of concussions are real and people need to now that! i used to love to read but now i cant look at a book long enough to read it because i get a headache and all i get told for treatment is to “sleep it off” “you need to take time to heal” how can i take time to heal when i have a 15 page paper due? something needs to be done to figure out treatment. i love football it gave me a chance to get a great education but it may be the very thing that takes that chance away

  4. Rachael | 30/08/11

    This is a very interesting article! I have sustained multiple concussions myself and so I am researching this topic for personal reasons. I find myself to be more forgetful than I should be sometimes. Quite frequently, I mix my words up! It is so frustrating… I know what I want to say but it doesn’t come out the way I thought it or it comes out backwards. I wish I knew if my “multiple concussions” were truly to blame. I am 31 years old and have a strong family history of Alzheimer’s Disease. It would be great to know what I have to look forward to.

  5. Hockeyman81 | 7/01/12

    I have had 9 concussions myself and I find myself doing the same thing. I want to say one thing and something else comes out. Sometimes I will say my words in reverse order. At least now I know I am not the only person experiencing this.

  6. rw50 | 18/04/12

    Had 14 concussions that I know about. I have a hard time remembering names of people I meet mostly. I also have trouble sleeping and have headaches all the time. I started using a little notebook to help remember things, if that helps anyone.

  7. John | 2/06/12

    Interesting …. I had 6 concussions while spending 4 years in Vietnam and just got my 8th. The doctor said take 8 weeks off and rest. I got a family and two gransdsons…Who the hell can afford to take off for 8 weeks. Problem is they just do not know enough. Lets see, 4 years college, 4 years med school, 4 years residentcy, 2 years fellowship, and all they can say is rest. I will rest when I am dead

  8. Rawmeat | 11/07/12

    Crap. I’ve had six concussions, and sometimes I feel like I can barely speak at all. I can’t go out during the day so much, because all the light hurts my eyes, then I forget why I went outside in the first place. I can’t work, because I can’t stay focused enough, and/or learn the skills required for the task at hand. Hell, about the only thing I CAN do is read, it helps me remember.

  9. Erica@keywordluv | 17/07/12

    Concussions need to be taken very seriously as they can have a major impact on your life. It is so important to take time away from impact and exercise after a concussion. I have had one serious concussion and many minor concussions over the past 7 years. I experienced memory loss at the time of my first major concussion, which went away after a day. At this time I was in high school and noticed difficulty in concentrating in class, which was never a problem prior to my concussion. Since my first concussion, I have had 4-5 head minor knocks. I believe the result of my head injuries has deeply impacted my ability. I can no longer remember names and recent events. I can’t read anymore as I constantly lose my focus and find it very difficult to concentrate. These symptoms seem to be getting worse and worse and is making my job and everyday life very frustrating! I ask that anyone who has a concussion, to please take it seriously and get treated!

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