White Matter Changes Persist After Concussion
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Sunday, August 07, 2016 12:00 AM

Even though they no longer had symptoms, young athletes who had a concussion still had changes in the white matter of their brains half a year after their injury, researchers found.

In a single-center case-control study, high school and college athletes with a concussion showed decreased mean diffusivity — a marker of white matter changes -- on diffusion tensor imaging at 6 months compared with healthy matched controls.  That could have implications for managing concussions and determining recovery in athletes who have experienced a sports-related concussion. “Athletes may still experience long-term brain changes even after they feel they have recovered from the injury.” 

Recent neuroimaging studies have suggested that sports-related concussion is associated with acute neuroanatomical and neurophysiological changes, and that white matter tracts are especially vulnerable to concussion. Yet the duration of those effects is not clear.  Research therefore south to conduct diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and diffusion kurtosis tensor imaging (DKTI) on 17 high school and college football players, mean age 17.4 years, who had a concussion, and compared the scans with those from 18 matched athlete controls, mean age of 17.7, who did not have a concussion.  The researchers also assessed concussion symptoms, balance, and cognition at three time points: 24 hours after concussion, 8 days later, and 6 months later.

Overall, they saw no differences between the two groups in terms of self-reported concussion symptoms, cognition, or balance 6 months after the injury.  But there was widespread decreased mean diffusivity in those with a concussion compared with controls at that time point — which was similar to the acute findings at 24 hours and 8 days, the researchers said.  Also, those with more severe symptoms at the time of concussion were more likely to have alterations in white matter 6 months later.  “Despite normalization of clinical symptoms, concussed athletes showed significant white matter alterations 6 months post-injury that were related to initial symptom severity ratings.” 

Source:  http://www.medpagetoday.com/SportsMedicine/GeneralSportsMedicine/58986