Concussion Study Reveals Important Step To Avoid Brain Damage

Since the release of the film Concussion, the common, but potentially dangerous medical condition has been the topic of many conversations. While the movie deals primarily with concussions in professional American football, anyone can potentially suffer from a concussion. Thankfully, a new study has revealed one vital step that everyone with a concussion should take to avoid risk of permanent brain damage.

According to UPI, the concussion study has come out of Georgetown University Medical Center’s Laboratory for Brain Injury and Dementia. Scientists knew that the brain can recover completely from a concussion, but only if it is given time to rest. The researchers in the concussion study now have a better understanding of why rest is so important.

Concussion on the field
David Brutonof the Denver Broncos is attended to by trainers after a play that would force him out of the game with a reported concussion. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Experiments were performed on laboratory mice to discover the differences between a concussed brain that was given time to rest and one that continually suffered from concussive trauma. One group of mice was subjected to a mild concussion every single day for an entire month, while the second group only received a mild concussion once every week. A final control group of mice received a single concussion so that researchers could compare constant concussions with a normal rate of recovery.

Data revealed that the concussions reduced the amount of neuronal connections in the brains of the mice by about 10 to 15 percent. However, the control group of mice made a complete recovery, experiencing no inflammation or death of brain cells. The mice who were given mild concussions every single week also fully recovered, requiring about three days of rest before neural pathways were returned to normal. The mice who received ongoing daily concussions suffered permanent damage, inflammation and cell death.

The concussion study was published this week in The American Journal of Pathology.

“This damage became progressively worse for two months and remained apparent one year after the last impact,” said Mark P. Burns, assistant professor of neuroscience at Georgetown University Medical Center.

The lesson here is to give victims of a concussion a span of multiple days to allow the brain to fully heal. No activity should take place in those few days, especially nothing that could result in additional concussions. Burns explained that the brain can take the hits, but only when it isn’t further damaged by consecutive impacts.

“It is good news that the brain can recover from a hit if given enough time to rest and recover,” said Burns. “But on the flip side, we find that the brain does not undertake this rebalancing when impacts come too close together.”

Hearing of the House Judiciary Committee about football brain injuries. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The concussion study provides especially valuable data for athletes, who are often sent back onto the field shortly after receiving a concussion. According to Medical News Today, the effects of a concussion that wasn’t followed up with rest can last for decades.

“Concussion causes temporary loss of brain function leading to cognitive, physical and emotional symptoms, such as confusion, vomiting, headache, nausea, depression, disturbed sleep, moodiness, and amnesia. However, even when the symptoms of a concussion appear to have gone, the brain is still not yet 100 percent normal.”

Some believe the long-term effects of a concussion could help explain why the life expectancy of professional football players is substantially lower than the average person. According to the Boston Globe, these athletes often suffer from lifelong depression, joint pain, reliance on painkillers, and face a higher risk of suicide.

“The findings mirror what has been observed about such damage in humans years after a brain injury, especially among athletes,” Burns continued. “Studies have shown that almost all people with single concussions spontaneously recover, but athletes who play contact sports are much more susceptible to lasting brain damage. These findings help fill in the picture of how and when concussions and mild head trauma can lead to sustained brain damage.”

What do you think about the findings of this new concussion study?

[Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images]