TORONTO - Using advanced imaging techniques, researchers have detected microstructural brain damage in male and female varsity hockey players who sustained a concussion — changes that aren't apparent with standard hospital-based MRI scans.
The findings suggest concussions alter the microstructure of the white matter — the "wiring" that transmits signals from one brain region to another — at least in the short term, but possibly in the long term as well.
In three related papers published Tuesday in the Journal of Neurosurgery, an international research team shows the kinds of microscopic brain damage that can result from a concussion.
"It means we're finding organic, objective evidence of this trauma," said Dr. Paul Echlin, a sports medicine physician in Burlington, Ont., who led the studies.
"We know that trauma occurs. We know that in soft tissue you're going to have these findings of inflammation and neuroplasticity, which means changes in the structure, but we'd never seen it before."
Concussion is a traumatic brain injury that results from a blow to the head. Symptoms include headache, confusion, memory loss, dizziness and nausea or vomiting.
Depending on the severity of the concussion, symptoms can last for days, weeks or months. Concentration and the ability to remember may be impaired; the person can be irritable, depressed and experience marked personality changes; sensitivity to light and noise, along with disturbed sleep, are also common.