In an article from the New York Times, a study found changes in the brains of hockey players who had concussions.
Researches also found that the occurrence of concussion among players was three to five times higher than previously reported. Concussions in hockey occur more often than previously thought, and that means brain damage is a prevalent risk factor.
This study was the first to use magnetic resonance imaging analysis before, during and after a season to measure the effects of concussions on current athletes.
Previously, there was evidence of chronic injuries later in life from head trauma, but now the study has proven that these chronic injuries are affecting players who are still in the game.
Forty-five male and female players were tracked by independent physicians throughout the 2011-12 hockey season and given MRI scans before and after the season. Those players who received concussions during the season were given several additional scans around the time of the concussion.
The scans, according to the article, found white microscopic white matter and inflammatory changes in the brains of individuals who had been clinically diagnosed with a concussion during the period of the study.
Players who had a history of concussions showed significant differences in their brains’ white matter microstructure compared to players who di not have a history of concussions.
These changes in the microstructure mean micro-hemorrhaging, neural injury, and other damaging inflammatory responses to brain trauma, according to researchers. These changes mean brain damage.
The imaging techniques used for this study could be used as a model for monitoring acute and cumulative brain injury that athletes receive.
These types of techniques could eventually prove that the way the game is played must be changed in order to protect the brains of those who play.
Further research on larger populations of athletes in other contact and noncontact sports, as well as on non-athletes, is what it will take to validate these results in a way that could lead to change.
Photo Credit: Flickr contributor, clyde