Mini-Concussions, No Impact on Brain Function?

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I read this article and expected more in reality this study found something which may or may not be of any significance. There has been a lot of talk about how damaging hits to the head may be to an athlete. That a blow to the head that does not result in concussion may be doing damage just the same. The term is serial mini-concussions. A lot of this talk has been just that, talk, little to no data has ever been collected to measure or determine to what degree, if any, these mini-concussions have on the brain. That is until now.

A recent study was published in which the authors attempted to measure college student performing a common test for concussion during brain imaging. The imaging was functional MRI which is an MRI study that can measure brain activity. In this study the athletes performed an exam while under the functional MRI. The authors were able to measure brain activity during the different parts of the test. The students tested included football players, cross-country runners, and nonathletic college students. The findings  are interesting but does not clear up our understanding of the impact mini-concussion have to the brain of athletes who participate in sports prone to head injuries.

The authors found that  that cumulative mini-concussions may not alter brain functioning among athletes more prone to repeat minor hits. They could not measure any significant deficit in the brains of runners vs the brains of football players indicating that there is little to no risk to the brain in playing football from mini-concussions. However, the football players activated different parts of their brains during functional MRI. The studies author was quoted; “There are difference in the ocular-motor regions of the brain between runners and football players. These differences could be due to the rigorous visual-motor training football players perform or could be due to sub-concussive impacts to the skull.”  The authors could not be conclusive that this difference wasn’t just due to the athletic training that football players do to develop the coordination of movement necessary to play football.

What does this mean? It really means that we don’t know enough to be definitive that hits to the head which do not result in a concussion, damage the brain in any way. What I think is missing from a lot of the concussion talk is that the issue isn’t as simple as it appears. Given the right recovery time and protocol, I think that the brain is very capable of healing itself even after the most severe of head injuries. I don’t think there is enough evidence to prove that head injuries, which do not result in a concussion, do any lasting damage to brain function. That could change, my opinion could change based on new evidence. Until we understand more we need to use caution when it comes to concussions.  I do think that after any head injury, brain rest needs to happen to facilitate healing. The amount of rest should be somewhat proportional to the injury. If you would like to know more or have a specific question let me know. I would be happy to help you understand this issue more.

 

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Posted in Exercise and Fitness, Pediatrics, Wellness

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