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CARE Consortium: Cerebral blood flow in acute concussion

Using advanced imaging, researchers find less blood flow in several brain regions in concussed athletes relative to uninjured peers

While researchers have learned a great deal about concussion in recent decades, what occurs in the brain at the time of injury and through the course of recovery are not yet fully understood. To gain more insight, Dr. Yang Wang, an associate professor of radiology at the Medical College of Wisconsin, and a team of researchers examined how blood flow changes in the brain manifest after a concussion. They used advanced imaging techniques that are part of the NCAA-Department of Defense Concussion Assessment, Research and Education Consortium study’s advanced research core and published their results in the medical journal Brain Imaging and Behavior.

What did the study find?

Using advanced MRI imaging of 24 concussed college athletes and 24 uninjured contact sport athletes at two test sites, the researchers found that significantly less blood flow was detected in several brain regions in concussed athletes when compared to their matched controls. Meanwhile, clinical assessments found the injured athletes demonstrated concussion symptoms and performance impairments.

What are the implications?

These findings, including correlations between decreased cerebral blood flow in concussed athletes detected via MRI and poor clinical performances in tests that gauge balance and memory, mark an important step forward in the effort to use advanced neuroimaging techniques to identify concussion and monitor recovery.

What’s next?

These results are consistent with previous research into the area. They suggest that advanced MRI methods may one day be useful for detecting biological changes in the brain soon after a concussion, the paper notes. More study will be required to further refine those imaging methods before they can be applied in clinical settings.