Eight cases of Second Impact Syndrome were reported in the U.S. in 2015.

Brain Injury, Alzheimer’s, and ALS – Is There a Link?


We’re always pleased to read about any sort of research that’s being conducted when it comes to brain injuries. The latest we’re noting are studies linking brain injuries to other diseases such as Alzheimer’s, dementia and even amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Caveat: We’re not into fear mongering, so we’ll start out by saying that lots more research is still needed to prove or disprove some of these theories. In any case, here are some interesting findings:

  • An article in the American Journal of Neurology concluded that the increased risk for Alzheimer’s, dementia and ALS was four times higher in professional football players as compared to the general public.
  • Another widely quoted study reported in the NY Times suggested a six-time increase in ALS in Italian soccer players.
  • A January 2017 study published in PLOS ONE, a peer-reviewed science journal, concludes that head injuries are associated with an increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s, and that head injuries can lead to neurodegenerative diseases.

ALS, a tragic, incurable neuromuscular disease, usually presents with a series of varying symptoms in gradual onset, like muscle weakness, tripping, slurred speech and muscle cramps. It’s a hard disease to diagnose since other diseases mimic ALS. Many people may remember first hearing about ALS in reference to baseball great Lou Gehrig. He famously retired from the Yankees in 1939 and only two years later, died of the debilitating disease which became thereafter known as “Lou Gehrig’s disease.”

Last year’s autopsy performed on Eagles player Kevin Turner ultimately attributed the athlete’s death to CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) and not ALS, but symptoms of the two degenerative brain diseases can seem similar.

The Alzheimer’s Association notes that the risk of Alzheimer’s may increase after traumatic brain injury, while the Mayo Clinic doesn’t go so far out on a limb, simply suggesting that you are at greater risk if you also “have other risk factors.” For example, they say that “carrying one form of the apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene increases the risk of Alzheimer’s in any individual, and that “more research is needed to understand the link.”

More research is needed? We surely agree!




Dr. Vincent Schaller joins OTL to give his feedback on how we are not properly caring for concussions long term.