Jul 28, 2017The Latest in Concussion Research
Concussion-related research continues to shed light on the risks, diagnoses, and treatments for athletes of all levels. Some of latest findings pertain to detecting changes in white matter, identifying blood-based biomarkers, and different magnitudes of head impact based on age.
The long-term effects of a concussion can be difficult to diagnose over the years. Traditionally, the only way to show brain damage resulting from concussion has been through post-mortem examination. But researchers from Université de Montreal, The Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (The Neuro), and the Ludmer Center for Neuroinformatics are working to change that.
According to an article from ScienceDaily, the team has used MRI scans from athletes who are healthy, as well as those who have suffered a concussion, to build artificial intelligence that can detect the differences in white matter connections. Although the researchers say further work is needed in this area, there’s the potential that this kind of tool could be used by health care providers to diagnose concussions and learn what is happening with athletes’ brains after they retire.
“Future studies, including systematic comparisons with patient groups presenting with other age-related neurological conditions, together with identifying new biomarkers of concussion, would help refine the developed, computer-assisted model of the remote effects of concussion on the aging brain,” said Louis de Beaumont, PhD, a Researcher at Université de Montreal and the lead author of the paper.
Elsewhere, a team at the University of Birmingham (U.K.) is working to identify a biomarker that shows when the brain has been injured. In order to assess the inflammatory marker’s efficacy, blood samples were taken from patients within an hour of injury, then again at four, 12, and 72 hours after the injury. Three inflammatory biomarkers were able to identify traumatic brain injury within the first hour.
“Early and correct diagnosis of traumatic brain injury is one of the most challenging aspects facing clinicians,” Lisa Hill, PhD, a Research Fellow at the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing at the University of Birmingham, told Medical News Today. “Being able to detect compounds in the blood which can help to determine how severe a brain injury is would be of great benefit to patients and aid in their treatment.”
Adding to the challenge researchers face is evidence that findings from studies may not apply across a wide range of subjects. One study that was recently published in the Journal of Neurotrauma showed a difference in athletic context for youth football players. Based on the researchers’ findings, the youngest athletes in the study — with an average age of 10.8 years — were more likely to sustain high-impact head injuries during practice. In contrast, the study’s oldest age group — averaging 13 years — was more likely to have a higher median acceleration.
“It is noteworthy that there are significant increases in head impact magnitudes from one level to the next within a single youth organization,” the study’s authors wrote, reported by Infectious Diseases in Children. “This suggests that all youth athletes cannot be grouped together when studying [head impact exposure] and injury risk, and more data are needed at all levels within youth football, especially at the youngest levels… With increasing concern over the long-term neurological effects of repetitive head impacts, data from all levels are needed to understand athletes’ exposure to head impacts over a lifetime.”