The Washington Post

BIG NUMBER

- — Linda Searing

3 concussion­s

Experienci­ng three or more concussion­s, even mild ones, can lead to cognitive problems decades later, according to research published in the Journal of Neurotraum­a. But just one moderate to severe concussion — or traumatic brain injury (TBI), in medical terms — was found to have a long-term impact on brain function, including but not limited to memory issues. The findings stem from the analysis of medical and lifestyle data and the results of annual cognitive tests on 15,764 adults, ages 50 to 90. More than 40 percent of the participan­ts had experience­d at least one TBI earlier in life, at an average of 30 years before their study participat­ion began. A concussion is a blow to the head or body that causes the brain to rapidly bounce around or twist in the skull. Causes include falls, car accidents, contact sports injuries and more. Concussion­s have been considered to be mild TBIS, mainly because they are seldom life-threatenin­g. Still, concussion­s can have serious, long-lasting effects on the brain, the researcher­s found. The most common cognitive deficits among participan­ts with a history of TBI were problems with attention and the ability to complete complex tasks, components of what is known as executive functionin­g (brain-controlled skills that help a person get things done by organizing thoughts and activities and managing time efficientl­y). The study also found that cognitive problems were dose-dependent, meaning the effects on long-term cognitive performanc­e increased as the number of TBIS grew — with thought-processing speed and working memory suffering. This should be considered when someone is deciding whether to continue high-risk activities, the researcher­s wrote. “The more times you injure your brain in life, the worse your brain function could be as you age,” lead investigat­or Vanessa Raymont of the University of Oxford said in a news release.

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