Can The Study of Medieval Skulls Help Us To Better Understand the Effects of Traumatic Brain Injury?

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Traumatic brain injury is the most common cause of death and disability in the United States today. And when it comes to disability resulting from brain injuries, the effects are often long-term and sometimes debilitating.

Given the prevalence of such injuries, research in the field of traumatic brain injury is quite active. A recent anthropological study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has revealed a potential, surprising source of information about modern traumatic brain injuries.

The researchers examined skulls found in medieval Denmark, and found that a certain number of the skulls had healed head injuries. Further data on the risks of dying during that time period allowed the researchers to infer that the head trauma also resulted in brain injuries. There was, however, no clear indication as to the cause of death for each of the skulls examined.

The study found that men in medieval Denmark who had experienced and healed from head traumas had a relative risk of dying that was double the mortality rate from traumatic brain injuries today. It’s likely that the difference in mortality rates lies in the differences in the medical care available then and now.

The researchers hope that the data obtained from these medieval skulls may one day help those studying traumatic brain injuries by providing more information about the long-term consequences of such injuries.

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