Injuries from playing contact sports, such as, football, rugby, boxing, and martial arts, have been linked to a heightened risk of dementia. A new study now says that contact sports may actually lead to other neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s Disease, and it explains why.
Numerous studies during the past few years have suggested that repeated head injuries obtained from participation in contact sports are linked to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is a degenerative brain disease that can lead to dementia. One such study argued that brain injuries could accelerate the processes that bring about Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common type of dementia that is characterized most prominently by memory loss, a sense of disorientation, and an impaired ability to carry on a daily routine.
Now, a study led by researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine in Massachusetts has found that people engaging in contact sports may also be more likely to develop Lewy body disease. In this condition, a protein called alpha-synuclein forms abnormal deposits known as Lewy bodies in the brain. Lewy body disease is associated with dementia symptoms, as well as with Parkinson’s disease.
Traditionally, scientists have believed that the motor symptoms — such as tremors, slowness of movement, and difficulty walking — experienced by some athletes are attributable to CTE. However, the researchers argue instead that those symptoms are actually a byproduct of Lewy body disease, independently of CTE.
These findings may not be surprising. After all, as the authors note, previous research had already shown that the number of years spent playing contact sports can be used to predict the severity of dementia-related pathology, as well as the severity of CTE in former players.
This research, the scientists add, builds on data provided by existing studies, though further efforts should be made to ascertain, with more exactitude, the health risks to which repeated brain injuries expose athletes.
Some Complications of Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease is often accompanied by these additional problems, which may be treatable:
- Thinking difficulties : You may experience cognitive problems (dementia) and thinking difficulties. These usually occur in the later stages of Parkinson’s disease. Such cognitive problems aren’t very responsive to medications.
- Depression and emotional changes :You may experience depression, sometimes in the very early stages. Receiving treatment for depression can make it easier to handle the other challenges of Parkinson’s disease. You may also experience other emotional changes, such as fear, anxiety or loss of motivation. Doctors may give you medications to treat these symptoms.
- Swallowing problems : You may develop difficulties with swallowing as your condition progresses. Saliva may accumulate in your mouth due to slowed swallowing, leading to drooling.
- Chewing and eating problems : Late-stage Parkinson’s disease affects the muscles in your mouth, making chewing difficult. This can lead to choking and poor nutrition.
- Sleep problems and sleep disorders : People with Parkinson’s disease often have sleep problems, including waking up frequently throughout the night, waking up early or falling asleep during the day. People may also experience rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder, which involves acting out your dreams. Medications may help your sleep problems.
- Bladder problems : Parkinson’s disease may cause bladder problems, including being unable to control urine or having difficulty urinating.
- Constipation : Many people with Parkinson’s disease develop constipation, mainly due to a slower digestive tract.
- Blood pressure changes : You may feel dizzy or lightheaded when you stand due to a sudden drop in blood pressure (orthostatic hypotension).
- Smell dysfunction : You may experience problems with your sense of smell. You may have difficulty identifying certain odors or the difference between odors.
- Fatigue : Many people with Parkinson’s disease lose energy and experience fatigue, especially later in the day. The cause isn’t always known.
- Pain : Some people with Parkinson’s disease experience pain, either in specific areas of their bodies or throughout their bodies.
- Sexual dysfunction : Some people with Parkinson’s disease notice a decrease in sexual desire or performance.