This Concussion Symptom Tied to Longer Recovery Times

Blood flow to brain decreased after concussions, a symptom that could help doctors diagnose and treat these injuries

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) A short-term effect of concussions could be used as an important tool for doctors diagnosing and treating this brain injury.

A recent study found that concussions in football players led to less blood flow to the brain.

The authors of this study looked at college football players who had concussions on the field. They examined the patients' concussions periodically after the injury.

They found that blood flow to the brain decreased right after the concussion happened. In the days and weeks that followed, blood flow mostly recovered as the injury healed.

But the athletes whose blood flow symptoms took longer to resolve were also slower to recover overall.

The authors of this study concluded that blood flow to the brain could be used “for tracking both normal and potentially pathological recovery from concussion.”

Timothy B. Meier, PhD, of the Mind Research Network/Lovelace Biomedical and Environmental Research Institute in Albuquerque, NM, led this study.

According to Dr. Meier and team, 3.8 million sports-related concussions occur every year. Concussions are brain injuries due to mild trauma that typically heal with rest and time.

These researchers looked at blood flow to the brain to see if it could help diagnose and assess the severity of concussions. They looked at 44 college football players, 17 of whom had had concussions.

The players who had concussions underwent brain imaging one day, one week and one month after their injuries.

Dr. Meier and colleagues found that the athletes with concussions had less blood flow to the brain after the concussion than healthy athletes. However, the blood flow levels recovered as the concussions healed.

These researchers also found that the concussed athletes had returned to their normal reaction times after one week. After one month, all mood-related symptoms had resolved. Concussion patients often have slowed reaction times and changes in mood.

The athletes who were slower to recover also had lower brain blood flow after one month, Dr. Meier and team found.

These researchers concluded that blood flow to the brain could be a marker of concussions that doctors could use to help diagnose and treat these injuries.

This study was published March 2 in JAMA Neurology.

The Laureate Institute for Brain Research funded this study. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
March 2, 2015
Last Updated:
March 3, 2015