Do Concussions Increase the Risk of Brain Tumors?

Do concussions, such as those caused by football, increase brain tumor risk?

With football season in full swing, concussions and their long- and short-term consequences promise to be in the news. While the harmful effects of repeated concussions, especially among teens and young adults, have been well documented, any links between concussions and brain cancer are less clear.

Multiple studies have endeavored to see if such links exist. Some have found an association between head trauma and meningioma, a tumor that forms in the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, although others, including a recent one, found no such connection. Nor has a connection been found between head trauma and glioma, a type of cancer that arises in the supportive tissue of the brain.

A long-term study from 1974 tracked nearly 3,000 people who had suffered a head injury to see if they were more likely than the general population to develop an intracranial (inside the skull) tumor. The study authors found no increased incidence of brain tumors within this group. While the researchers couldn’t rule out the possibility that head trauma plays a role in the development of some brain tumors, they concluded that any increased risk would be extremely small.

Learn more about brain tumor research, diagnosis, and treatment from Dana-Farber’s Center for Neuro-Oncology.

Editor’s note: Concussions can – and do – occur in all sports, including wrestling, hockey, football, and others, as well as through non-athletic activities. If you think you may have experienced a concussion, seek treatment from a health professional before resuming activity.