2 January 2019

Researchers from Radboudumc and Western University Canada performed MRI scans in more than fifty female rugby players. They show a deviant pattern in the brain after an acute concussion. The MRI scans show a clear difference even after six months. On the basis of the scans it is also possible to establish a history of previous concussions, the researchers write in NeuroImage Clinical.

Concussion is common in contact sports such as football and rugby. Symptoms of a concussion, such as headaches, concentration and memory problems, dizziness, confusion and nausea usually disappear quickly. It is difficult to determine whether underlying, permanent changes in the brain have occurred after the recovery. Christian Beckmann and Alberto Llera, associated with the Radboudumc, have studied this together with colleagues from Western University in Canada.

Rugby players

During a whole rugby season, the researchers followed more than fifty female rugby players from the university team at Western University, of which twenty-one players suffered a concussion. In this group MRI scans were made three days, three months and six months after the concussion.
Beckmann: "With various MRI techniques we mapped the anatomical and functional characteristics of the brain. That not only gave a very sensitive and complete picture of the brain at different times, but we also saw characteristic patterns in the rugby players that had had a concussion. "

Permanent changes

The researchers looked at the very fine structure of the white matter and the functional connections between various areas of the brain. Alberto Llera: "Analysis not only show the acute reaction of the brain, but we also see that permanent changes occur after the clinical recovery. Based on such changes, we can even visualize the history of concussions in someone. "

Better understanding

"Our research underlines the importance of advanced imaging techniques to understand what happens in the brain after a concussion," says Beckmann. "This provides valuable information that physicians can use to further shape treatment of concussion."
Publication in NeuroImage: Clinical - Linked MRI signatures of the brain's acute and persistent response to concussion in female varsity rugby players.
The Donders Institute has a partnership with Western University in Canada to stimulate exchange of staff. Kathryn Y. Manning from Western (first author of this publication) performed her research in the group of Christian Beckmann. This publication is a result of that collaboration.

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