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Can a single concussion cause lasting brain damage?

As previously reported on Scope, researchers at Stanford and elsewhere are working to better understand what jolts or awkward movements to the head are most damaging to the brain, and whether new technologies can prevent such trauma.

So I was interested to read about findings (subscription required) published yesterday in the journal Radiology suggesting that lasting structural changes in the brain can be caused by a single concussion. In the study, researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to compare healthy participants' brains with those of individuals who suffered mild traumatic brain injury. A follow-up was completed with a portion of the subjects a year later. According to a recent Medical Daily article:

By looking at 3D MRI scans and determining the size of the grey and white matter changes in patients and controls researchers were able to put together an accurate picture of the global changes that occur after a traumatic brain injury.

After one year following the concussion, there was a measurable global and regional atrophy in the brain. This evidence shows that even one minor injury to the brain can result in brain atrophy, usually only seen in patients with severe brain injuries.

The findings are significant in light of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that 1.7 million people in the United States sustain a traumatic brain injury annually and that 75 percent of these injuries are concussions or other forms of mild traumatic brain injury.

Previously: Developing a computer model to better diagnose brain damage, concussions, Stanford researchers working to combat concussions in football, Mental and emotional costs of a concussion and A conversation with Daniel Garza about football and concussions
Photo by Wellcome Images

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