By: Martha Garcia | Published: March 15th, 2013
New research shows that significant changes to the brain can occur following only one episode of mild traumatic injury, or a typical concussion.
Researchers at New York University’s Langone School of Medicine conducted an institutional review board approved study which followed 28 patients with mild traumatic brain injuries (MTBI) and 22 control subjects with no injuries to assess the significance of one mild concussion.
An MTIB is a milder blow or jolt to the head than a traumatic brain injury (TBI), and this first of it’s kind study suggests that long-lasting brain damage may still be suffered.
According to findings published in the journal Radiology, during a one year followup to the initial concussion, 19 patients exhibited post-traumatic symptoms after injury. Patients who experienced concussions exhibited a loss of gray and white brain matter, or brain atrophy, one year later.
Brain atrophy is known to occur in patients who have sustained minor traumatic injuries. This study reveals brain atrophy can occur following a mild traumatic brain injury.
MRI Used to Measure White Matter
White matter volumes were tested using 3D magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The changes were not evident on routine clinical imaging, yet structural injury to the brain was apparent. Researchers speculate that the changes in brain structure may be the exact cause of long term symptoms.
Researchers also found changes in patients memory, attention and other post-concussive symptoms. Typical symptoms of a concussion include loss of consciousness, headaches following the event, dizziness, memory loss, problems with attention, depression, lack of alertness, confused behavior, nausea and anxiety which can last for months or even years.
Studies show up to 20% of patients who undergo an MTBI will have neurological and psychological symptoms more than one year later. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates 1.7 million people will suffer traumatic brain injuries each year as a result of sudden trauma. Approximately, 75% of those cases will be as a result of an MTBI, or concussion.
Other Recent Studies Focused on Sports TBIs
Traumatic brain injury has been at the forefront of headlines quite frequently following multiple studies which indicate the severity. Most recently, head trauma made news following the suicides of several high-profile athletes and an increased risk of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), permanent brain damage, as a result of repetitive head trauma.
Additionally, researchers discovered a second blow to the head, following an initial injury may cause severe side effects and possibly even death. As a result, Harvard and the NFL players association launched a $100 million dollar study. These numerous accounts coupled with the new study revealing one mild event, not just severe and repeated events, can cause brain trauma.
The researchers in the latest study recommend that patients should be evaluated by a doctor and follow-up with a physician before performing high risk activities, such as football or hockey.