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Wednesday
Nov302011

Sports Concussions Lessen Blood Reaching Kids' Brains

Comstock/Thinkstock(CINCINNATI) -- Concussions can reduce blood flow to young athletes' brains for a month or more, although their brains also appear more resilient in many ways than those of similarly injured adults, researchers report.

A single sports-related concussion in a young person generally produces minor trauma, which the researchers described as more of a disruption to brain function than the structural and metabolic damage similar concussions inflict on adult brains.

The findings come from a study assessing the effects of concussions on nine boys and three girls, ages 11 to 15, who'd been injured during football, soccer or wrestling.  The study group comprised three girls injured while playing soccer, one boy injured while wrestling and seven boys injured on the football field.  Two football players were knocked unconscious during the incidents; three of the football players had suffered previous concussions more than a year earlier.

When the researchers, led by Dr. Todd Maugans, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, compared injured athletes' brains to brains of healthy youngsters of the same age and sex, MRIs found less blood flowing through the injured athletes' brains in the immediate aftermath of their head injuries.  The brain-injured athletes also had slower reaction times.

However, by the two-week mark, blood flow for 27 percent of the injured athletes returned nearly to the levels of healthy subjects and most of their symptoms had resolved.  Follow-up at a month or more found 64 percent of the injured athletes had normal blood flow again, and everyone's reaction times were normal, according to results published online Wednesday in the journal Pediatrics.

With 36 percent of the group experiencing persistent blood flow reductions a month or more after their injuries, "our results reinforce the concept that a protracted state of physiologic abnormality exists for some young athletes," the researchers wrote.

The authors theorized that diminished blood flow produces some of the symptoms associated with concussions, most of which resolve with time.  They were unable to say what long-term effects might result from lessened blood flow.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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