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Brain Scans Reveal Concussion Damage Lasts Months

Update Date: Nov 21, 2013 10:40 AM EST
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Athletes, regardless of age, have an increased risk of experiencing concussions. Even though helmets were designed to protect the skull, studies have found that they do not prevent concussions from occurring. Based on the findings of several studies, concussions can severely affect mental health with symptoms such as headaches, memory loss, dizziness and a lack of concentration. In a new study, researchers examined the brain scans of people who have suffered from concussions and found that even after the symptoms mostly disappear, the damage is still present.

"This is a very different population than professional athletes going out and having concussions on a fairly [frequent] basis, as well as jostling their brain around their skull on a regular basis in practice," said study author Andrew Mayer, an associate professor of translational neuroscience at the Mind Research Network in Albuquerque, NM, reported by WebMD. "Just because you fell you're healed doesn't mean you are."

For this study, the researchers analyzed 100 people, half of which suffered from concussions. The participants were around the same age and had similar education levels. The researchers tested memory and thinking skills, anxiety and depression in all of the participants. The team then took brain scans and compared the healthy brains to the brains that had concussions. The tests and brain scans were taken right after the concussion and then at two weeks and at four months after the concussion.

The researchers found brain abnormalities at four months in the brain scans of the concussions group. By this point, the concussion symptoms had decreased by 27 percent. The abnormalities were evident in the frontal cortex area. The researchers noted that the damage could be due to changes in brain fluids around cells or changes in the shape of some of the brain cells.

"During recovery, reported symptoms like pain are greatly reduced before the body is finished healing, when the tissue scabs," Mayer said according to FOX News. "These findings may have important implications about when it is truly safe to resume physical activities that could produce a second concussion, potentially further injuring an already vulnerable brain."

The study was published in Neurology. The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded the study.

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