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Research suggests link between head injuries and immune system

Researchers recently completed a study to determine if the body responds to blows to the head as if they were a viral attack. The study determined that after receiving blows to the head, the protein biomarker S100B is elevated in the bloodstream. The immune system mistakes the protein and begins to attack it. This sets off an autoimmune response. The body in a sense begins fighting against itself, and the immune system attacks healthy cells. This is similar to what happens with multiple sclerosis.

In theory, routine head hits like those experienced by football players and soldiers release protein into the bloodstream. The hits do not have to cause brain injuries or concussions for this to happen. The body naturally builds up antibodies when it notices the protein in the bloodstream. 

Researchers measured the levels of S100B in the bloodstream of athletes before and after games. They also counted the number of blows each player had to their heads. The players with the most hits had higher levels of the protein. In addition, players who did not participate in the games were also tested, and their levels remained low. Brain scans were done on 10 players at the close of the football season. Those tests further confirmed elevated levels of autoimmune antibodies and S100B in the subset of players who had the most hits throughout the season.

A head injury or another type of brain trauma may lead to permanent disability. Injuries that are a result of negligence might entitle the injured person or their family to accident compensation, which can help pay for long term care, medical expenses, and rehabilitation. Wisconsin residents who have sustained injuries might benefit from speaking with an experienced personal injury attorney.

Source: Medical Xpress, "Brain injury may be autoimmune phenomenon, like multiple sclerosis, research finds," March 6, 2013

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