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Can a Concussion Cause a Stroke?

Nov 9, 2022 4:32:24 PM

Approximately 795,000 people across the US suffer strokes annually. Most strokes (87%) occur when blood flow to the brain is blocked, and the aftermath is in many cases long-term disability.

Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) such as concussions may be a contributing factor that leads to stroke. But can a concussion cause a stroke? Read on to answer this question with scientific findings and to get information on how to reduce the risk of stroke after a TBI.

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Traumatic Brain Injuries and Strokes

Research linking traumatic brain injuries to strokes began in 2011. Taiwanese researchers analyzed data from the Longitudinal Health Insurance Database 2000 (LHID 2000) to find a direct link between TBIs and future strokes. Until this point, studies had identified some effects of TBIs as neurological disorders, but this was the first study to focus specifically on stroke.

These researchers looked at 23,199 patients that had previously sustained TBIs as well as 69,597 records of those who had not. Individuals in these comparison groups were matched by age, sex, and year of health care records.

During a 3-month follow-up period after the appointments that the researchers looked into, 2.91% of TBI patients had strokes. Only 0.3% of non-TBU patients did so. In the short term, TBI patients were about 10x more likely to have strokes than non-TBI ones.

This was the first study that empirically linked TBIs to strokes. Future researchers would use these findings as a jump-off point to learn more about this correlation.

Why Might This Correlation Exist?

One of the main reasons that traumatic brain injuries may correlate with future strokes is blood clotting problems. Many strokes occur because blood cannot clot correctly. An ischemic stroke happens when too many blood clots occur; thin blood can lead to a hemorrhagic stroke.

Types Of Stroke

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Head injuries also can weaken the brain's blood vessels. They can then rupture later, which means that hemorrhagic strokes are more likely for those that have sustained past TBIs.

What Does This Correlation Look Like?

After the findings of the Taiwanese study were made public, University of Michigan researchers further investigated the correlation between traumatic brain injury and stroke.

These experts looked through ER billing records across California from 2005-2009. Over these 4 years, there had been over 436,000 cases of traumatic brain injuries across the state. About 1% ended up having a stroke later in life.

This may sound like a small figure, but it's 30% higher than those who did not have a pre-existing traumatic brain injury. While still a small percentage of the overall population, this is a significantly higher number of people than those that did not have a previous TBI.

Can a Concussion Cause a Stroke?

Multiple research teams note the correlation between TBIs and stroke. Concussions are a type of traumatic brain injury and therefore are part of these findings. However, recent studies looked solely into the impacts of concussions on stroke.

In 2017, researchers specifically studied the impacts of mild TBIs on future strokes. Namely, they studied concussions. These experts looked into both hemorrhagic and ischemic strokes in patients over the course of 4 years. They specifically identified those that had experienced concussions before the incident to see whether there was a strong correlation.

X-Ray Of A Skull With A Concussion

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The findings showed a high correlation between concussions and subsequent strokes. Those with concussions had an ischemic stroke rate of 8.9% (rather than the control group's 5.8%). They also had a hemorrhagic stroke rate of 2.7% (as opposed to the control group's 1.6%).

This study, along with others, shows a strong correlation between concussions and strokes. That's why it's important to take steps to pre-emptively combat the risk of stroke after you sustain a traumatic brain injury.

How to Reduce Risk of Stroke After a Traumatic Brain Injury

There is no definitive diagnosis or treatment for traumatic brain injuries. Despite the lack of a cure, however, experts believe there are many ways that you can reduce the risk of future TBI complications such as stroke.

One important way that you can reduce your stroke risk is to recognize the signs that you may be experiencing. If you think that you may be experiencing a stroke, remember the acronym FAST. Assess:

  • Face - smile and see if one side of your face is moving unevenly/drooping

  • Arms - raise both arms and see if both move evenly

  • Speech - speak and ensure that you aren't slurring/unable to form words

  • Time - make note of the time that these symptoms took place if you note them

Act FAST | Is It A Stroke?

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You also should look for numbness in the face and limbs, balance problems, sudden vision changes, and immediate severe headaches. It's important that you make note of any symptoms that you see immediately and track them effectively. It also is important to immediately call 911 if you may be experiencing a stroke.

To lower your risk of stroke, you should also consider:

  • Frequent exercise

  • Stress reduction and mindfulness

  • Reducing salt intake

  • Watching blood pressure

  • Creating a healthy, potassium-rich diet

These health risk reduction techniques will help you to live as healthily as possible.

Track Your Symptoms With Sallie®

So, can a concussion cause a stroke? Seemingly so. Studies suggest that there is a strong correlation between traumatic brain injuries and future strokes.

If you or someone you know has sustained concussions or other TBIs, then you understand how overwhelming the symptoms can become.

Sallie® aims to ease this feeling by being an incredibly easy-to-use and free TBI symptom-tracking dashboard. Using the dashboard at the beginning of one’s recovery can help one to identify symptoms and triggers.

The robust data collection approach includes various varying symptoms for our users to track. If you have recently been involved in an accident, using Sallie® for your TBIs can lead to a better recovery.

Register for Sallie® here.

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