Brain Injuries in Sports

The theory of neuroplasticity holds that the brain will change and adapt to different conditions including to childhood injuries. This theory is often challenged and sometimes referred to as a “myth.” However, a new study by Seena Fazel and colleagues from the Department of Psychiatry at University of Oxford in the United Kingdom delivered data that supports the claims of neuroplasticity theorists. Fazel’s conclusions reveal that the later a mild TBI is sustained, the worse the health and social outcome is for the patient. The study also found a causal effect between childhood Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) and the risk of brain impairment and social dysfunction at later stages in life.

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Following a concussion, patients are instructed to rest for twenty-four to forty-eight hours beginning any type of return to normal activities.  Many doctors recommend an even longer period of rest so as to reduce the risk of re-injury during recovery from the concussion.  Some clinicians even advocate “cocoon therapy” which “restricts patients to several days

A new study out of the University of Colorado-Denver found that regardless of the location of impact of high school football players who sustained a concussion, there was no difference in the outcome. Researchers, noting that “little research has examined concussion outcomes in terms of impact location (i.e., the area on the head in which the impact occurred), utilized the National High Schools Sports-Related Injury Surveillance Study dated between 2008/2009-2012/2013 to calculate rates and describe circumstances of football concussion (e.g., symptomatology, symptom resolution time, return to play) resulting from player-to-player collisions by impact location.”
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A new study published online at PLOS One found that “the brain degeneration observed among professional football players could result from an out-of-control immune response, similar to what multiple sclerosis patients experience. “Consequences of Repeated Blood-Brain Barrier Disruption in Football Players, Nicola Marchi, Jeffrey J. Bazarian, Vikram Puvenna, Mattia Janigro, Chaitali Ghosh, Jianhui Zhong, Tong Zhu, Eric Blackman, Desiree Stewart, Jasmina Ellis, Robert Butler, and Damir Janigro.
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The researchers, interested in whether frequent sub concussive blows to the head in soccer players could lead to traumatic brain injury, evaluated concussion-naïve soccer players using high resolution DTI, which “is highly sensitive for detecting alterations in white matter architecture.” The researchers utilized forty soccer players, all right handed males, from two training groups of an elite-level soccer club in Germany.
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A recent article in the New York Times highlights how researchers are working on a new, relatively inexpensive way to spot injuries and monitor brain diseases using magnetic sensors that can spot changes in brain waves. This compact and portable detection device, part of the field of optical magnetometry, is constructed as a form of headgear roughly the size of a sugar cube, and works by having sensors measure changes in the brain’s magnetic field.
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