For many years researchers have been studying the possible link between head concussions in early life and the onset of Multiple Sclerosis in later years. However the results have been disappointing except for a new study.

Montgomery, Hiyoshi et al. studied the large, prospective, collected data of the National Swedish patient register—with hospital diagnoses and the clinical data of patients diagnosed with MS—to compare the information of more than 2000 individuals diagnosed with MS up to 2012 who were matched with more than 72,000 non-MS ones, controlling for sex, year of birth, age and vital status at the time of diagnosis and county of diagnosis. The events of head concussion and broken bones in the extremities were singled out from birth to 10 years old, and from the ages of 11 to 20.

One single concussion occurring between the ages of 11 and 20 provoked an adjusted odds ration of teens later been diagnosed with MS of 1.22% while two or more concussions were associated with an odds ratio of 2.33. The investigators did not find any relationship between children aged 10 or younger who had head concussions with the later onset of the disease; the same was true for young people that had broken bones but no concussions. Interestingly enough they found that the longer the hospital stay for head concussion was, the more likely the possibility of developing MS also was; the odds ratio for developing MS following a single day of hospitalization was 1.15, compared to 1.55 for two days and 1.75 for three days or more.

Dr. Montgomery, professor of Clinical Epidemiology at Örebro University in Sweden, said “in adolescents with more than one concussion, it’s a doubling of the risk for MS. But the risk of developing MS is very low to begin with. That’s why we want to know more about susceptibility. That’s a study we’re going to do now, to look at genetic susceptibility. Then we might see a more precise estimate of risk for individuals.” A previous study showed that brain injury triggers an autoimmune process in nervous tissue. If a genetically susceptible individual has a brain lesion during adolescence, then the statistical possibility of developing MS later in life might increase.

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