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Study finds evidence of brain damage a year after concussion

Each year scientists and doctors learn more about identifying and treating head and brain injuries, millions of which are caused by motor vehicle accidents. However, diagnostic tests such as CT scans, MRIs and PET scans may not indicate the full extent of the injury. Often other specialists -- neuropsychologists, for instance -- along with the family of the injured person, have to assist doctors in making an accurate diagnosis.

A study recently published in the journal "Neurology" underscores the difficulty medical professionals may have in providing a diagnosis that tells the whole story of the injury.

The study involved 33 people who had not suffered a head injury, nine people who had suffered a moderate concussion, and 44 people who had suffered a mild concussion. All of the participants underwent thinking and memory testing. The scores for those who had suffered a concussion were initially 25 percent lower than the scores for those without an injury.

Participants were tested again a year later. The memory and thinking test results were similar for all participants, injured or not, but brain imaging scans clearly indicated continued damage to brain cells in participants who had suffered concussions. One of the authors of the study noted the importance of the finding, given that 90 percent of traumatic brain injuries are categorized as mild or moderate.

The study underscores the difficulty researchers have in connecting the results of memory and thinking tests with the actual damage revealed by CT scans and MRIs. It was also emphasized that each case is different. Brain injury symptoms can show up in a variety of ways beyond memory loss and trouble with thinking. Some people become impatient very quickly or experience violent mood swings. These symptoms may arise even when a brain scan doesn't indicate continued damage.

Our head and brain injury overview has more on the legal issues associated with an injury caused by another party's negligence. 

Source: WebMD, "Mild Concussion May Cause Thinking, Memory Problems," Barbara Bronson Gray, July 16, 2014

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