In recent years, an increasing number of doctors and researchers have begun to speak out on the long-term dangers of traumatic brain injuries. The issue has assumed the spotlight not only because of a series of lawsuits by former National Football League players, but also because of the staggering numbers of veterans who have suffered these injuries while on duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Indeed, many experts believe that the incidence of traumatic brain injuries in the U.S. has reached epidemic proportions.
Unfortunately, positive news about traumatic brain injury treatments is difficult to come by. Researchers are, however, making great strides in understanding the ways in which these injuries can affect individuals over time, which may help doctors develop effective treatments in the future.
Researchers at the University of Michigan, for example, recently examined the medical records of adults who were admitted to California hospitals for traumatic brain injuries over a five year period. Their study, published recently in the journal Neurology, determined that having a mild traumatic brain injury increases a person’s risk of having a stroke later in life.
Discovering a connection between traumatic brain injuries and stroke is important because both are very common injuries for young people. Currently, doctors are unable to explain increased stroke risk among younger people. Knowing that this connection exists may aid doctors in identifying ways to minimize the risk of injury later on in life.
The study involved the examination of medical records of just over 435,000 adults admitted to the hospital for traumatic brain injuries. Researchers also studied the records of about 736,000 people who were admitted with trauma, but no brain injury.
On average, approximately one percent of patients in the study had suffered a stroke about 28 months after their initial injury. For those who had suffered a traumatic brain injury, the percentage was 1.1 percent. For those who had suffered trauma, but no brain injury, the total was .09 percent. Researchers adjusted for several known risk factors for stroke, including high blood pressure, and found that suffering a mild traumatic brain injury increased a person’s risk of stroke significantly. According to the study, the risk presented by suffering a traumatic brain injury is as great as high blood pressure, which is known as the strongest stroke risk factor.
More work needs to be done, but researchers believe that their work could prove useful in treating TBIs and preventing strokes.