While there has been a lot of coverage pertaining to concussions in young athletes as well as for professional athletes who have played high-level contact sports such as ice hockey and football, little has been discussed about long-term implications of concussions suffered years ago by recreational athletes.  Should we worry if we had “our lights knocked out” 35 years ago while active in high school sports?  According to recent research the answer is a cautious “probably not.”  Researchers at the University of Montreal published their findings in the May issue of Cerebral Cortex journal.  The researchers examined the brains of middle-aged, healthy former athletes.  All of the people studied had played contact sports in college, some 30 years prior, and some of them had sustained concussions during their collegiate careers.  None of the former athletes complained of cognitive impairment… other than would be expected of a group of 50 to 60 year olds.

The researchers scanned the volunteer’s brains using M.R.I machines, and used scanning technology that looked at the metabolic health of specific neurons.  Towards the end of the study the volunteers completed tests of their memory, both long – and short-term.  The scientists found small dissimilarities between the brains of those who had experienced concussions and those who had not.  While the differences were subtle the authors concluded that those people who had had concussions showed “abnormal aging.”  The 50-year-olds who had been hit in the head had brains that were metabolically and structurally similar to those of uninjured 60-year-olds.

Steven P. Broglio, a professor of kinesiology with the Michigan Neurosport program at the University of Michigan believes that past concussions and their effect on premature brain aging should continue to be studied.  “It seems possible, according to our data and that from other labs that concussions may accelerate some of the normal deterioration in cognitive and motor function that we’d expect with aging.”  Kevin M. Guskiewicz, chairman of exercise and sports science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill believes that any effects from years earlier concussions vary widely from person to person.  When asked what should someone do with a history of concussion, Dr. Guskiewicz said…”I don’t think people need to worry too much.”  The good news is that the Canadian former athletes in the study were all functioning well, even those who had experienced concussions years before….  NYTimes  7/11/12


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