The link between TBI and Parkinson’s disease has been thought to exist for a long time. One of the most famous examples is the great Muhammad Ali. In fact, there is a link between TBI increasing the risk for all other types of neurodegenerative diseases. Here’s why.
For brains to function optimally or in many cases, simply adequately, they require the brain cells to produce enough energy (ATP Adenosine Triphosphate) to continually repair cells. The brain cells have tiny batteries called mitochondria (up to 2000 inside every brain cell) that produce the ATP. Everyones individual genetic lineage dictates the requirement for different amounts of atmospheric oxygen tension, UVA exposure, micronutrients and even temperature (yes, some people can require cold weather to shrink the respiratory proteins in order to increase ATP production). This “individuality” is referred to as the mitochondrial haplotype, while the rate of undesirable changes that occur over time is called “heteroplasy”.
While concussions on their own do not cause Parkinson’s disease, concussions cause alterations in blood flow, brain inflammation, and the formation of scar tissue known as “lesions” that are often linked concussions, will reduce the resources available to the brain cells. Therefore, concussions will speed up the progression of any neurological problem that hasn’t surfaced yet. In fact, all neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Parkinson’s, etc. have roots of both genetic alterations in expression, and contributing environmental factors called the epigenetic factors. Therefore, any impact that causes the brain to be inflamed, swollen, scarred, or produce less energy will aggravate and speed up the disease.