Researchers at PSU are attempting to answer that very question with ongoing research of the role genes play in recovering from concussions. Peter Arnett, professor of psychology and director of clinical training at Penn State, and a team of researchers are examining the effect of the apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene influencing post concussion symptoms. According to Arnett, their are three different alleles for the APOE gene, their research focused on the effect of the e4 allele and how it influences concussion symptoms. The researchers at PSU collected buccal swabs from 42 athletes with concussions, as diagnosed by their team physician, for DNA analysis. Arnett and his team compared concussed athletes with the e4 allele against other concussed athletes and found that the athletes with the e4 allele scored higher on a post concussion symptom scale (PCCS). The PCCS is a scale through the imPACT computer program. This program surveys concussion symptoms to determine their severity. Athletes with the e4 allele reported greater physical and cognitive impairment following a concussion. According to Arnett this is the first study to attempt to examine the relationship between the e4 allele and post concussion symptoms.
This research adds to the growing amount of information on concussions and the effects that they have on the brain. This is the first study of its kind that examines specific alleles and how those alleles can influence the symptoms of concussions. This information could be used beyond understanding concussions in sports and be applied to soldiers who experience traumatic brain injuries from blast injuries.