More than two million Americans suffer traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
every year. While some injuries are unavoidable, a new study suggests
that some people may be genetically predisposed to this type of trauma.
Researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine recently discovered
that a person’s genetic makeup might influence the extent of brain
trauma after a head injury. More specifically, athletes with variations
of the APOE gene were 10 times more likely to have reported a concussion
and more than eight times as likely to suffer a brain injury.
“Until now, all the attention has been paid to how hard and how often
you get hit,” Thomas McAllister, a professor of clinical psychiatry
at the Indiana University School of Medicine, told
The Washington Post. “No doubt that’s important. But it’s also becoming
clear that it’s probably an interaction between the injury and the
genetics of the person being injured.”
While the research is still in its infancy, the findings could eventually
lead to a blood test, which could be used to determine if a person is
susceptible to suffering a traumatic brain injury. While the results may
not be definitive, they could help people make more informed decisions
about engaging in activities that pose a higher risk of head trauma, such
as football or hockey.
Legal experts have also speculated that defendants in personal injury lawsuits
involving TBIs may raise the genetic predisposition in an effort to avoid
liability. However, this would likely be an uphill battle given that the
law has long held that defendants must “take their victims as they
find them,” which means that they cannot avoid responsibility simply
because the plaintiff suffers from a particular vulnerability.