The Link Between Parkinson’s Disease and Brain Injuries

The Link Between Parkinson's Disease and Brain Injuries | Dr. Ali Ghahary

If you’ve ever suffered a concussion, your risk of developing Parkinson’s disease could increase anywhere from 56 to 83 percent – this according to a new study done by Dr. Raquel Gardner, an assistant professor of neurology with the University of California and the San Francisco VA Medical Centre.

The study was conducted on more than 325,000 individuals between the ages of 31 to 65, and those individuals were closely followed for 12 years. Out of those 325,000 individuals, approximately 1,500 were diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and of those 1,500, 949 also suffered a previous concussion/traumatic brain injury. For mild concussions, the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease was 56% higher, while the risk for those with moderate to severe concussions and TBI’s jumped to as much as 83% higher.

There are many theories as to how concussions and Parkinson’s disease could be linked; the most plausible theory being that when you suffer from a concussion or a traumatic brain injury is that these types of injuries cause the accumulation of abnormal proteins. Another theory is that a concussion, be it mild, moderate or severe, may also cause damage to the dopamine-producing cells – and, as you may or may not know, these are the cells that are also affected by Parkinson’s disease.

What is a TBI / Concussion?

A traumatic brain injury, or concussion, results after there has been some sort of injury to the head. Trauma is a word used to denote damage done to the body, therefore a TBI is considered the more severe of the two. Concussions are quite commonly seen in contact sports such as football, as well as hockey. They can also be the result of car accidents or other blunt-force trauma. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, including things such as headache, dizziness, blurred vision, disorientation, nausea, vomiting, ringing in the ears, behavioural changes, changes in sleep patterns, as well as unconsciousness. If you suspect you or someone you know may have a concussion, Dr. Ali Ghahary says it is important to seek immediate medical treatment in order to prevent any complications from occurring as well as to make a complete recovery. Depending on the severity of the concussion, recovery time can take anywhere from several weeks to months, and in some cases even years. Even if you feel fine, it’s important that you take it easy for a few days following the concussion and don’t do any kind of strenuous activity. If you do too much too soon you may only be setting yourself back.

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

As outlined in a previous article by Dr. Ali Ghahary, Parkinson’s is a neurogenerative disease that is characterized into 5 different stages. Parkinson’s disease can severely impact a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-date activities, and can include symptoms such as tremors, speech changes, writing changes, rigid muscles, and more. For more insight into Parkinson’s disease, visit Don’t forget April is also Parkinson’s Awareness Month.