The results of a recent study have indicated that teenagers who experience a concussion face an elevated risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS) later in life.
The study, published in the Annals of Neurology, examined data on patients 20 years and younger who were hospitalized with a concussion. Based on their analysis, the researchers determined that experiencing 1 concussion during adolescence would increase a patient’s risk of developing MS by 22%; more strikingly, teenagers who experienced 2 or more concussions increased their risk of MS by 133%.
However, the researchers did not find any evidence to suggest that young children who experience concussions face a greater risk of MS, a result that they attributed to differences in how the brain develops in childhood and adolescence.
“We think that concussion among adolescents can indicate the processes that cause the body’s immune system to attack the insulating layer of nerve cells, which, over time, prevents them from functioning correctly,” said study author Scott Montgomery, PhD, in a statement. “The rapidly developing brain in earlier childhood may be more able to avoid some delayed consequences of trauma than in later teenage years.”
Emphasizing the importance of protecting children and teenagers from head injury, Montgomery noted that MS is a result of both genetic susceptibility and environmental exposure, and said that he and he team next plan to further investigate how genes interact with other factors in causing MS.
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