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Are Some People More Prone to Traumatic Brain Injury?

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.