Lindsey Straus Lindsey Straus   IN: Effects of Concussion and Repetitive Head Impacts   Tagged: , ,  
  • Lindsey Straus

    Author: Lindsey Straus is an award-winning youth sports journalist, practicing attorney, and has been Senior Editor of SmartTeams since its launch as MomsTEAM in August 2000. She can be reached at

  • Lindsey Straus

Athletes May Have White Matter Brain Changes 6 months After Concussion

New research presented at a sports concussion conference hosted by the American Academy of Pediatrics of Neurology in July 2016 has detected white matter changes in the brains of athletes six months after a concussion. (1)

Previous research has indicated that concussion produces acute anatomical and physiological changes to the brain; however the duration of these changes is not known. To examine the impact of concussion on white matter tracts – which are especially vulnerable to traumatic brain injury – over time, Melissa Lancaster, PhD, of the Medical College of Wisconsin, and colleagues conducted diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and diffusion kurtosis tensor imaging (DKTI) in 17 high school and college football players who experienced a sports-related concussion. The scans, which track the movement of water molecules in brain tissue, are used to measure microstructural changes in white matter, which connects different brain regions. The athletes with concussion, and a control group of 18 carefully matched athletes who had not experienced concussion, were also assessed for concussion symptoms, balance problems, and cognitive impairment, or memory and thinking problems, at 24 hours, eight days and six months following the concussion.  

Those who had concussions had less water movement, or diffusion, in the acute stages following concussion (24 hours, six days) compared to those who did not have concussions. These microstructural changes still persisted six months after the injury. Also, those who had more severe symptoms at the time of the concussion were more likely to have alterations in the brain’s white matter six months later.

Despite those findings, there was no difference between the group of athletes with and without concussion in terms of self-reported concussion symptoms, cognition, or balance at six months post-injury.

“In other words, athletes may still experience long-term brain changes even after they feel they have recovered from the injury. These findings have important implications for managing concussions and determining recovery in athletes who have experienced a sports-related concussion,” said study author Melissa Lancaster, PhD, of the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.  “Additional research is needed to determine how these changes relate to long-term outcomes.”

  1. Lancaster M, Muftuler T, Olson D, LaRoche A, Nelson L, McCrea M. Chronic White Matter Changes Following Sport-related Concussion Measured by Diffusion Tensor and Diffusion Kurtosis Imaging. Presented at: AAN Sports Concussion Conference 2016; Chicago, IL; July 8-10, 2016.

Additional source: American Academy of Neurology press release, July 7, 2016; (accessed August 23, 2016)

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