Looking for a genetic link to concussions
August 9, 2011By Carolyn Beeler
Doctors have been learning more in recent years about the long-term effects of concussions.
A Philadelphia researcher has been investigating whether some athletes are more likely than others to get concussions in the first place.
Temple University kinesiology professor Ryan Tierney tested college football and soccer players for a specific variation of the APOE gene, which is involved in making proteins that help repair neurons.
Out of more than 200 athletes he surveyed, nine had suffered multiple concussions. Tierney said eight of them had the same relatively rare variation of the gene.
"As the brain is being stressed from repetitive head impacts, it's possible that a protein that's supposed to aid in cell repair, if it's not functioning properly, could increase susceptibility of injury to the nervous system," Tierney said.
Tierney said more research with larger sample sizes is needed to determine if the variation is significant. However, the research could ultimately lead to a genetic test that could alert athletes if they are prone to concussion. It could also help coaches and athletic trainers tailor decisions about when to let players back on the field after injury.
Tierney is now investigating whether there is a genetic connection to some of the long-lasting cognitive and behavioral effects that could be associated with multiple concussions.
Your comments: Are certain athletes more likely to sustain a concussion? Are enough precautions taken during practices and games? What can be done to ensure safety for all players? Leave a comment in the space below.