A Canadian researcher has published a study that says the effects of concussion can last for decades after the original brain injury.
The study, performed by Dr. Maryse Lassonde, a neuropsychologist and the scientific director of the Quebec Nature and Technologies Granting Agency, was based on her work with youth and adult concussion victims for 15 years, according to Science 2.0.
Her research found that brain waves remain abnormal in young athletes for two years following a concussion, and atrophy occurs in the motor pathways of the brain following a hit.
The results of her work, which were published in the journals Brain and Cerebral Cortex, have important implications for the regulation of amateur and professional sports, the treatment of players and the importance of preventing violence in hockey and football.
“Even when you are symptom-free, your brain may still not be back to normal,” says Lassonde. “That tells you that first of all, concussions lead to attention problems, which we can see using sophisticated techniques such as the EEG. This may also lead to motor problems in young athletes.”
Even more prevalent were the long-term effects in former athletes.
By studying older athletes who suffered their last concussion 30 years earlier, and comparing them to healthy peers who had not experienced concussions, Lassonde discovered those who had suffered a head trauma had memory and attention deficits and motor problems similar to the early symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Further testing of these older athletes turned up a thinning of the cortex in the same regions of the brain that Alzheimer’s disease usually affects.
“This thinning correlated with memory decline and attention decline,” Lassonde says.
A press release through EurekaAlert.com said the findings will have a profound effect on pro and college sports.
“That tells you that first of all, concussions lead to attention problems, which we can see using sophisticated techniques such as the EEG,” says Lassonde. “This may also lead to motor problems in young athletes.”
– Bill Bradley, contributing editor