Sports concussion research using fMRI provides insight for safe return-to-play decisions

PITTSBURGH, Aug. 6 Concussions are common in young athletes but the underlying changes in brain function that occur have been poorly understood. Now, a University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine study is the first to link changes in brain function directly to the recovery of the athlete. Results of the five-year study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, are published in the August issue of the scientific peer-reviewed journal, Neurosurgery, the official journal of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons.

We found that abnormal brain activity in children and adolescents on functional MRI (fMRI) was clearly related to their performance on neuropsychological tests of attention and memory and to their report of symptoms such as headaches, said principal investigator Mark Lovell, Ph.D., asssociate professor in the departments of orthopaedic surgery and neurological surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

These results confirm crucial objective information that is commonly obtained by neuropsychological testing to help team doctors and athletic trainers make critical decisions about concussion management and safe return to play, added Dr. Lovell, who is founding director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Sports Medicine Concussion Program, a clinical service and research program focused on the management of sports-related concussions.

Our findings have several implications for understanding the recovery process after sports-related concussions, said study co-author Michael (Micky) Collins, Ph.D., assistant professor in the departments of orthopaedic surgery and neurological surgery at Pitts School of Medicine, and assistant director of the UPMC program. Although the results of this study must be considered preliminary, fMRI represents an important evolving technology that is providing further insight now for safe return-to-play decisions in young athletes and may help shape guidelines in th

Contact: Susan Manko
University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

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