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Concussions, or traumatic brain injuries, are significant problems in public health, and it is a common issue among athletes. About 1.4 million people suffer from a concussion each year in the United States. The severity is often measured in a range of severity, from mild (which results in a change in patterns of the neurons), or severe. The severe type accounts for about 15% of all reported concussion in the U.S., while mild concussions account for about 85% of all cases. Concussions typically have minor effects on the long-term functioning of the brain. Symptoms often show up right after the concussion, and they are typically resolved within seven days. “Precisely, cognitive functioning improves to baseline level within 5-7 days, and equilibrium deficits disappear within 3-5 days after the insult” (Charland-Verville et. al., 2012). However, the effects of a concussion can often outlast that time period, and there can even be permanent effects.
In looking at former athletes who had a history of sports-related concussions, there were both decreased neuropsychological performance during tests of the executive functioning, as well as bradykinesia as much as 30 years following their athletic careers. Furthermore, athletes who sustained repeated concussions showed mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. The patients were not considered to be demented, but they did exhibit memory impairments and are more obvious than what was expected among their age group and their levels of education. “Alogn the same lines, an autopsy done on former National Football League players revealed brain tissue evidence of chronic brain damage” (Charland-Verville et. al., 2012). The concussions also affected the motor function, which was shown in the gait patterns. Studies on the brain structure indicated long-term effects of concussions. In fact the entire spectrum of traumatic brain injuries results in white matter alterations, which are associated with cognitive impairments.
Trauma to the head accounts for about 20% of the olfactory dysfunctions, and three potential mechanisms have been developed to explain the olfactory dysfunctions that set in after traumatic brain injury. These include the stretching/shearing in the olfactory nerve, a cerebral hemorrhage, and a skull-base/face fracture or contusion. “Furthermore, the degree of olfactory loss is correlated with the severity of injury, and stronger olfactory impairment is therefore usually considered to be a sign of greater severity of head injury” (Charland-Verville, 2012). Also, the patients who have posttraumatic anosmia show a reduced rate of olfactory build volumes. This results in 56 to 65% of the patients with a variety of forms of concussions, showing an impaired ability to identify odors they are smelling. Among those in the regular population, about 20% show an olfactory dysfunction. A possible underlying factor of this could be the reduced brain perfusion of largely the frontal areas of the brain, in patients with posttraumatic anosmia. “Olfaction has gained increased attention in clinical settings, because specific olfactory alterations are associated with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, which in turn may be a long-term consequence of concussions (Charland-Verville, 2012). This of a particular concern to athletes because of the cumulative effect of repeated concussions.
Charland-Verville, V. (2012). Olfaction in Athletes with Concussion. Oceanside