Back on ice, but young hockey players' brains still recovering from concussion

October 25, 2017, American Academy of Neurology

Hockey players in their early teens who have had a concussion may still have brain changes three months later, long after other symptoms have cleared and they are allowed to return to play, according to a study published in the October 25, 2017, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The study looked at brain scans of boys who played in Bantam hockey leagues when body checking is first introduced.

"During the early teen years, the brain is still not fully developed and as it continues to grow and mature, it may be more vulnerable to brain injury," said study author Ravi S. Menon, PhD, of Western University in London, Ontario. "Our findings show the brains of young athletes may need more time to recover, which is important because without full recovery, players may be more susceptible to a second that could cause life-threatening brain swelling and bleeding."

The study looked at male hockey players, ages 11 to 14 during a six-month hockey season. On average, they practiced twice a week and played at least one game a week. During the season, 17 players were diagnosed with a concussion, most often from falling and hitting the back of the head. Researchers then compared them to 26 healthy players, who had either never had a concussion or had not had one within at least six months.

At the beginning of the study, each player was given thinking, memory, and balance tests. Each player also had a (MRI) scan of his brain. Those who were diagnosed with a concussion were given an immediate post-concussion assessment with MRI, and 14 players had a follow-up assessment with MRI three months later.

For all players with concussion, scores on the thinking and memory tests returned to normal before the three-month mark. On average, they required 24 days (ranging from 10 to 46 days) to recover and be cleared to return to play.

Compared to the of healthy players, the scans of the concussed players three months after the concussion showed signs of widespread damage to the white matter of the brain, as well as a 10 percent reduction in molecules associated with metabolism. The scans also showed other areas of the brain trying to create new connections in a possible attempt to recover function.

"More research with MRI is needed to further evaluate our findings because it is critical to understand how and when the adolescent human brain reacts and recovers from concussion," Menon said. "Current thinking, memory and balance testing may not be sensitive enough. These players were back on the ice when our study suggests their brains still needed time to heal."

One limitation of this study is that players were cleared to play at different times. Future MRI studies should follow for a longer period of time to see how long it takes for the to heal.

Explore further: Brain recovery longer than clinical recovery among athletes following concussion, research suggests

Related Stories

Brain recovery longer than clinical recovery among athletes following concussion, research suggests

August 24, 2017
University athletes with a recent concussion had changes in their brain structure and function even after they received medical clearance to return to play, a new study has found.

Know the signs of concussion

August 2, 2017
(HealthDay)—Concussions have been in the news a lot because of health problems experienced by football players, but you don't have to be a professional athlete to suffer this injury.

Athletes may have white matter brain changes six months after a concussion

July 7, 2016
New research finds white matter changes in the brains of athletes six months after a concussion. The study will be presented at the Sports Concussion Conference in Chicago, July 8-10, hosted by the American Academy of Neurology, ...

Study finds girl soccer players five times more likely than boys to return to play same day

September 15, 2017
A new study found girls were significantly more likely than boys to return to play the same day following a soccer-related concussion, placing them at risk for more significant injury.

Detecting long-term concussion in athletes

July 12, 2017
Lawyers representing both sides in concussion lawsuits against sports leagues may eventually have a new tool at their disposal: a diagnostic signature that uses artificial intelligence to detect brain trauma years after it ...

U of A research leads to enhanced CFL concussion guidelines

June 5, 2013
Research from the University of Alberta shows CFL players are more likely to value medical tests after concussions compared to university-level players. But the professional athletes were more apt to incorrectly believe it's ...

Recommended for you

Genomic dark matter activity connects Parkinson's and psychiatric diseases

September 20, 2018
Dopamine neurons are located in the midbrain, but their tendril-like axons can branch far into the higher cortical areas, influencing how we move and how we feel. New genetic evidence has revealed that these specialized cells ...

Full, but still feasting: Mouse study reveals how urge to eat overpowers a signal to stop

September 20, 2018
Almost everyone knows the feeling. You're at a restaurant or a holiday meal, and your stomach is telling you it's full, so logically you know you should stop eating.

'Gut sense' is hardwired, not hormonal

September 20, 2018
If you've ever felt nauseous before an important presentation, or foggy after a big meal, then you know the power of the gut-brain connection.

White matter repair and traumatic brain injury

September 20, 2018
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a leading cause of death and disability in the U.S., contributing to about 30 percent of all injury deaths, according to the CDC. TBI causes damage to both white and gray matter in the brain, ...

Gut branches of vagus nerve essential components of brain's reward and motivation system

September 20, 2018
A novel gut-to-brain neural circuit establishes the vagus nerve as an essential component of the brain system that regulates reward and motivation, according to research conducted at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount ...

Gambling monkeys help scientists find brain area linked to high-risk behavior

September 20, 2018
Monkeys who learned how to gamble have helped researchers pinpoint an area of the brain key to one's willingness to make risky decisions.

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.