February 23, 2009

Concussions may suppress brain functioning

A study of U.S. college athletes who had concussions indicated suppressed brain function more than three years later, researchers said.

University of Illinois researchers said the study considered performance results of 90 male and female college-age student athletes who participate in sports, including soccer, ice hockey and rugby. Roughly half of the sample had sustained concussions within the past 3.4 years.

The study participants' functional cognitive performance was evaluated using a battery of tests called the ImPACT inventory.

We were able to show that while our group of club and intercollegiate athletes, who were on average 3.5 years post-injury, performed normally on standard tests a sports-medicine practitioner would use to diagnose and evaluate someone for concussion, they had suppressed brain functioning, kinesiology Professor Steven Broglio said in a statement. And that included a decrease in attention allocation to things going on in their environment.

The study, published in the Journal of Neurotrauma, said with concussions, individuals showed a decrease in their ability to allocate attentional resources toward an oddball stimulus, suggesting they had deficits in their ability to update their working memory of the stimulus environment.

This is a long-term deficit, Broglio said.

However, Broglio cautions that further, cross-sectional study is required before reaching conclusions regarding long-term effects of mild traumatic brain injuries.