New findings from research into multiple concussions in hockey players

April 21, 2017, University of Gothenburg

The relationship between head injuries suffered during contact sport and Alzheimer's disease is now being called into question thanks to research by the Sahlgrenska Academy, which has revealed that hockey players with multiple concussions probably have other injuries in their brains.

"There seem to be two separate conditions and pathologies involved here," says Pashtun Shahim, a doctor and researcher of neurology and physiology.

He himself has met the 28 sportspeople who were the subjects of the research, the majority of whom were elite ice from Sweden (both male and female).

All of them had experienced long-term problems after suffering concussion on multiple occasions, with complaints including sensitivity to noise and light, irritability, depression, difficulty concentrating and memory problems.

No Plaque Formation

"You can experience a lot of problems following a concussion, but these usually resolve within a few days or weeks; this group, though, experienced the problems for more than three months," Pashtun Shahim tells us.

The research indicates that there is a general change in the metabolism or processing of a protein called (APP), from which Alzheimer-related beta-amyloids are excreted in the nerve-cell connections (synapses)..

This effect on the could indicate that there is synaptic damage, even if it is not completely understood why. The research indicates that there is an element of inflammation involved also.

"At the same time, however, the results do not indicate that there is any plaque pathology like you would see in, for example, Alzheimer's, which is a very important discovery," says Pashtun Shahim.

The changes mainly affected the hockey players who had been suffering concussion-related complaints for a very long time, i.e. more than a year, and as such had not been able to return to the sport. The other players did not produce the same results, nor did the 19 healthy individuals who made up the control group.

Follow-Up Anticipated

Pashtun Shahim wanted to emphasize that the research was based on samples from living human beings and the fluid – CSF – found in the cavity of the brain, not on material from autopsies as was the case in previous studies, which were based on (for example) the brains of boxers who had passed away.

"These findings indicate that there is a connection between the long-term complaints suffered following a concussion and - the first time that these two could be linked, with evidence found in living contact sport athletes. This means that we can follow up on these people in five or ten years' time and see how their problems have developed. There are currently no drugs on the market to combat the complaints, we merely treat them symptomatically, but the findings of the research may help us understand better the underlying pathophysiology and hopefully render in developing better therapeutics in the future," says Pashtun Shahim.

Explore further: Blood test might help spot, monitor concussions

More information: Pashtun Shahim et al. Astroglial activation and altered amyloid metabolism in human repetitive concussion, Neurology (2017). DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000003816

Related Stories

Blood test might help spot, monitor concussions

March 13, 2014
(HealthDay)—When someone suffers a concussion, it can be hard to tell how serious it is and how long recovery will take, but a new blood test might help answer those questions.

Study examines cognitive and psychosocial function of retired professional hockey players

April 13, 2017
Researchers at Baycrest Health Sciences' Rotman Research Institute have reported the most comprehensive neuropsychological study of retired professional ice hockey players to date. They found that the alumni involved in the ...

Brain protein predicts recovery time following concussion

January 7, 2017
Elevated levels of the brain protein tau following a sport-related concussion are associated with a longer recovery period and delayed return to play for athletes, according to a study published in the January 6, 2017 issue ...

Brains of college athletes with prior concussion show physical changes months, years later

July 21, 2016
University athletes with a history of concussion had changes in the size, blood flow and connections in their brains months and even years after the injury - changes not seen in athletes without prior concussions, a new study ...

Women may be at higher risk for sports-related concussion than men

February 28, 2017
Women athletes are 50 percent more likely than male athletes to have a sports-related concussion, according to a preliminary study released today that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 69th Annual Meeting ...

Evidence shows concussions require long-term follow-up for players

February 17, 2013
As the National Football League braces for lawsuits by 4000 former players alleging the league failed to protect them from the long-term consequences of concussions, game-changing research by a leading Canadian researcher ...

Recommended for you

Animal study connects fear behavior, rhythmic breathing, brain smell center

April 20, 2018
"Take a deep breath" is the mantra of every anxiety-reducing advice list ever written. And for good reason. There's increasing physiological evidence connecting breathing patterns with the brain regions that control mood ...

Mechanism behind neuron death in motor neurone disease and frontotemporal dementia discovered

April 20, 2018
Scientists have identified the molecular mechanism that leads to the death of neurons in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as ALS or motor neurone disease) and a common form of frontotemporal dementia.

When there's an audience, people's performance improves

April 20, 2018
Often, people think performing in front of others will make them mess up, but a new study led by a Johns Hopkins University neuroscientist found the opposite: being watched makes people do better.

Signaling between neuron types found to instigate morphological changes during early neocortex development

April 20, 2018
A team of researchers from several institutions in Japan has found that developing neocortex neurons in mammals undergo a morphological transition from a multipolar shape to a bipolar shape due at least partially to signaling ...

MRI technique detects spinal cord changes in MS patients

April 20, 2018
A Vanderbilt University Medical Center-led research team has shown that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can detect changes in resting-state spinal cord function in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS).

Gene variant increases empathy-driven fear in mice

April 20, 2018
Researchers at the Center for Cognition and Sociality, within the Institute for Basic Science (IBS), have just published as study in Neuron reporting a genetic variant that controls and increases empathy-driven fear in mice. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.