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Brain recovery ‘lagging’ after sports concussion

by Marlowe Hood
PARIS, France | AFP | Thursday 8/24/2017 – Changes in brain structure and function after a concussion remained visible in university athletes even after they were medically cleared to resume competitive sports, researchers reported Thursday.
Using advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), scientists detected lingering alterations in the brain’s white matter, and changes in zones linked to vision and planning, they reported in the journal Scientific Reports.
White matter consists of nerve fibres, called axons, that allow various parts of the brain to interact.
In athletes that took longer than usual to recover, the tests also spotted anomalies in areas of the brain associated with movement.
“This is the first concrete evidence we have that the brain is lagging behind in terms of recovery from a concussion,” said lead author Nathan Churchill, a post-doctoral fellow at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Canada.
“Our study shows that the neurobiological consequences of concussion may outlast the symptoms we’re typically looking for when determining whether an athlete is ready to return to play,” he said in a statement.
In making a “return-to-play” determination, trainers and doctors monitor symptoms reported by the athlete, perform fitness tests, and follow a step-by-step protocol for the resumption of intense physical activity.
The findings, however, suggest that longer recovery times may be needed to reduce the chances of repeat injuries in athletes who have been knocked out.
Concussion in sport and recreation is a growing health concern worldwide.
In the United States alone, up to 3.8 million such injuries occur each year in professional, amateur and school sports.

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