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Study: Brain injuries from concussion similar to Alzheimer's

Of all the terrible injuries that come out of car accidents, the hardest to detect are brain injuries. According to some studies, nearly 100,000 people in Tennessee and the rest of the country are treated for serious brain injuries due to car accidents and other causes.

Many more suffer brain injuries in which the symptoms don't show up until later. In these cases, people may suffer what appears to be a minor concussion, and days later experience trouble sleeping, hear constant white noise, feel disoriented, confused or nauseated due to swelling inside the skull. These injuries can lead to permanent problems.

Recently, a group of researchers published the results of a study in which they looked at MRI scans of concussion victims and found that they looked very much like the brain scans of patients suffering from Alzheimer's disease. The study looked at MRI scans of 64 patients a year after they had suffered concussions and compared them to scans of healthy patients. Researchers then compared the concussion victims' scans to those of Alzheimer's patients and found that both showed similar signs of degeneration of nerve endings in the brain.

In the Alzheimer's patients, the degeneration comes from a build-up of proteins that gradually chokes off the nerves. The study found something similar going on in concussion victims' brains a year after their injuries.

The study also found that concussion victims experienced symptoms similar to those experienced by Alzheimer's patients in the early stages of their disease. These include sleeping problems, memory problems and unusual changes in behavior.

Researchers cautioned that their findings don't mean that concussion victims will develop Alzheimer's disease, or that their symptoms will never go away. Still, the study shows how brain injuries from traffic accidents or other common causes can lead to long-term health problems, even if their effects don't always show up right after the initial injury.

Tennessee residents who have suffered a concussion should get medical attention right away. When their injuries were caused by someone else's recklessness, they may be compensated for medical expenses and other damages through a personal injury lawsuit.

Source: Time, "Concussion and Alzheimer's Patients Show Similar Brain Changes," Alexandra Sifferlin, June 19, 2013

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