An advanced imaging technique may be able to detect signs of brain injury, even after symptoms have subsided, according to a recent findings presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in Chicago.
A team of researchers led by Dr. Yang Wang, an associate professor of radiology at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, found that young football players who suffer a concussion can show signs of reduced blood flow in the brain well after their symptoms of subsided.
With an advanced form of MRI, the doctors were able to see signs of lower blood flow in the brain up to eight days after an injury, despite most reported symptoms having already subsided.
The study evaluated 18 football players with an average age of 18 and had recently suffered a concussion. Each player participating in the study was evaluated and underwent brain scans the day following the injury, and again a week later.
The researchers report that most of the athlete’s symptoms had faded by the second evaluation, but their blood brain flow had actually declined between scans. The researchers saw no such change in the control group of 19 healthy players.
The researchers caution the findings should be viewed as tentative however, as the study involved just 18 athletes.
“We don’t have enough data to tell parents or doctors what to do at this point,” Wang said.
If the findings are confirmed in later studies, it could indicate players should be removed from dangerous activities or competition for longer than currently recommended. Under current guidelines, players are removed until their symptoms have subsided, but the new findings suggest the brain may still be vulnerable.