With all of the news surrounding concussions lately, many people still treat concussions as temporary events. Some evidence backs up this assumption and studies in the past have shown that symptoms of a concussion in players, namely thinking problems or headaches immediately after an injury, will disappear in one to two weeks.
However, a new study funded by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Army Medical Research and Material Command involving detailed brain scans of 18 high school and college football players ages 15 to 21 in Wisconsin challenges this assumption. The study’s abstract, which was presented to the American Academy of Neurology last week provided that all of the student athletes who sustained a concussion continued to have visible damage in their brains 6 months after the concussion was sustained. This damage was seen even though the players were deemed to have recovered symptomatically in 7 to 10 days. This means that signs of neurological damage remained long after clinical symptoms of concussion stopped.
The study involved the use of advanced MRI scans called diffusion tensor imaging and diffusion kurtosis tensor imaging. These studies looked at changes in the brain’s white matter. White matter in the brain contains bundles of nerve fibers that assist in carrying messages from one area of the brain to another.
While it is too early to fully appreciate the effects of this study, it is clear that concussions are serious injuries that need to be evaluated carefully. Concussions occur when an individual takes a blow to the head and a concussion can cause clinical symptoms to include headache, confusions, lack of coordination, nausea, memory loss, dizziness, and excessive fatigue. While the mainstream thoughts on concussions are changing, many still do not fully appreciate the seriousness of a mild traumatic brain injury like a concussion.