- The researchers' reliance on existing brain scans and symptom charts created by other people. "You don't know what questions were asked, who asked the questions, how they were asked," he said. "There are a lot of things you can't control for."
- The inclusion of young patients in the pool of subjects, who ranged in age from 10 to 38. "White matter is not fully developed in people until they are adults," he said. "You have 10-year-olds in this study. It is highly, highly unusual to mix young kids with adults, because the brain is so different."
- The use of sleep disturbance as a comparable symptom between concussion and Alzheimer's. "What's a common co-injury in concussion? Whiplash. You have neck pain, back pain," he said. "If you go to sleep, you don't think that pain wakes you up?"
"The issue is, does a single concussion in an individual mean they are at risk for developing Alzheimer's?" Podell said. "There are so many other factors involved, including genetic factors, management of a concussion and the general health and well-being of the individual throughout their life."
The study authors agreed that their findings are tentative.
"This is not a definitive study. This is not the end at all. This is the first step," Alhilali said. "We hope this will lead to more research that will further explore this potential link."
The researchers do believe their findings could lead to better treatments in the future, however.
"The first step in developing a treatment for any disease is understanding what causes it," Fakhran said. "If we can prove a link, or even a common pathway, between mild traumatic brain injury and Alzheimer's, this could potentially lead to treatment strategies that would be potentially efficacious in treating both diseases."
For more on concussions, go to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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