Sunday, July 12, 2020
US flag

Concussion recovery longer in brain than clinically

University athletes with a recent concussion had changes in their brain structure and function even after they received medical clearance to return to play, a new study out of Toronto has found.

In a study published in Scientific Reports, researchers from St Michael’s Hospital used advanced MRI to measure brain structure and function in 27 athletes within the first week after a concussion and again after they were medically cleared to return to play. They compared those findings to a group of 27 uninjured varsity athletes.

They found that brain changes seen in the first MRI scan were still present when athletes were cleared to return to play, including:

  • Persistent differences in the structure of the brain’s white matter, the fibre tracts that allow different parts of the brain to communicate with each other
  • Differences in brain activity, particularly in areas associated with vision and planning, with athletes that took longer to recover also showing changes in areas of the brain associated with bodily movement

The study, done in collaboration with the David L MacIntosh Sport Medicine Clinic at the University of Toronto, looked at male and female varsity athletes in seven different contact and non-contact sports, demonstrating the relevance of the findings for the overall sporting community, not just traditional high-risk sports such as hockey and football, according to the authors.

The findings suggest that following a concussion, changes in the brain persist even after other symptoms have resolved, said Dr Nathan Churchill, the study’s lead author and a post-doctoral fellow in St Michael’s Neuroscience Research Program.

“This is the first concrete evidence we have that the brain is lagging behind in terms of recovery from a concussion,” he said. “Our study shows that the neurobiological consequences of concussion may outlast the symptoms we’re typically looking for when determining whether an athlete is ready to return to play.”

The brain areas showing differences at medical clearance are especially concerning, as vision, planning and physical coordination are critical for athletes to avoid re-injury during sport participation. However, the current study did not directly examine whether athletes would be at risk for further injury by returning to play when these brain changes were still present, according to the authors. Further research is needed to determine whether or not athletes need more time between acute injury and returning to play to fully recover.

“We want to emphasize that, in general, the health benefits of sport participation still outweigh the risk of concussion,” said Dr Tom Schweizer, head of the Neuroscience Research Program and a co-author of the paper. “Our findings help us to better understand how the brain changes over the course of recovery, which will in turn help to guide concussion management. The more we know about concussion, the better we can reduce potential risks.”

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

Recent posts

Voxitatis congratulates the COVID Class of 2020

2020 is unique and, for high school graduates, different from anything they've seen. Proms, spring sports, & many graduation ceremonies are cancelled. Time for something new.

Vertical addition (m3.nbt.2) math practice

3rd grade, numbers and operations in base 10, 2, 3-digit vertical addition practice problem

Rubber ducks (m3.oa.1) math practice

3rd grade, operational and algebraic thinking, 1, rubber ducky modeling practice problem

Distance learning begins as Covid-19 thrives

What we learn during & from coronavirus, a challenging & imminent crisis, will provide insights into so many aspects of our lives.

Calif. h.s. choir sings with social distancing

Performances with the assistance of technology can spread inspiration across the globe even as the coronavirus spreads illness and disease.

Families plan to stay healthy during closures

Although schools are doing what they can to keep students learning and healthy during the coronavirus outbreak, that duty now shifts to parents.

Illinois temporarily closes all schools

IL schools will be closed on Tuesday, March 17, through at least March 30. Schools in 18 states are now closed due to coronavirus.

Coronavirus closures & cancellations

Many schools are closed and sports tournaments cancelled across America during what the president called a national emergency: coronavirus.

Coronavirus closes schools in Seattle

The coronavirus pandemic has caused colleges to cancel classes, and now Seattle Public Schools became the nation's first large district to cancel classes due to the virus.

Most detailed images ever of the sun

A new telescope at the National Solar Observatory snapped the most detailed pictures of the sun's surface we have ever seen.

Feds boost Bay funding

Restoration efforts in the Chesapeake Bay watershed received a boost in federal funding in the budget Congress passed last month.