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Researchers uncover clues about returning to play


Findings from a recent Western-led study indicate that young athletes who suffer concussions may be returning to the field, court or ice too soon, as their brains are continuing to change long after they are cleared for action.

Western researcher Ravi Menon and his team at Robarts Research Institute and Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry have shown that young hockey players who have suffered concussions still show changes in the white matter of the brain months after being cleared to return to play. The findings were published in the October 2017 issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

The study looked at MRI brain scans from 17 hockey players between the ages of 11 and 14, who suffered a concussion during the regular season. Most of the concussions were a result of falls involving a hit to the back of the head.

The athletes had their brains scanned within 24-72 hours of the initial concussion and again three months post-concussion at Western’s Centre for Functional and Metabolic Mapping. At the time of the three-month scan, all the players reported no symptoms on clinical evaluations and were cleared to return to the ice following the standard concussion consensus return-to-play protocol.

“What the MRI shows is there are still changes occurring in the brain even after the clinical tests have returned to normal,” Menon explained. “This is potentially of some concern and we’d like to understand this further to determine if these are normal healthy changes or if they are indicative of something that might be going wrong.”

This article appeared in the Winter 2018 edition of Alumni Gazette
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