Just one concussion can lead to a decrease in brain volume, according to a new study in the journal Radiology.
Specifically, researchers from New York University's Langone School of Medicine found that people who had suffered a mild traumatic brain injury and experienced symptoms of the injury a year later also experienced brain atrophy (brain shrinkage).
"This study confirms what we have long suspected," study researcher Dr. Yvonne W. Lui, M.D., assistant professor of radiology and the neuroradiology section chief at NYU, said in a statement. After mild traumatic brain injury, "there is true structural injury to the brain, even though we don't see much on routine clinical imaging. This means that patients who are symptomatic in the long-term after a concussion may have a biologic underpinning of their symptoms."
The study involved 28 people who had experienced a mild traumatic brain injury and experienced post-traumatic symptoms and 22 controls, all of whom underwent MRI brain imaging to determine their white matter and gray matter volume.
Researchers specifically found that those who had sustained a mild-traumatic brain injury had less brain volume in regions linked with anxiety, memory and attention problems.
Researchers cautioned that the findings are still early, and it's important not to assume that every single person with a concussion is experiencing this brain atrophy. However, the study does show that effects can last long after a concussion occurs.
Coming out around the same time as this study is a "Consensus Statement on Concussion in Sport," which is backed by the International Olympic Committee, FIFA, the International Equestrian Federation, and the International Rugby Board. The statement notes that while mouthguards and helmets are important in preventing injuries, evidence doesn't show that they have any concussion-preventing powers. The statement is published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.