After Concussion Symptoms Fade Slowed Blood Flow in Brain May Persist

Blood Flow to Brain Slowed After Concussion But preliminary study doesn't determine whether that is cause for concern, experts say
WebMD News from HealthDay

By Amy Norton

HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Nov. 30, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Young football players who suffer a concussion can show signs of reduced blood flow in the brain, even after their symptoms have subsided, a new, preliminary study suggests.

Using an advanced form of MRI, researchers found that concussed football players typically showed lower blood flow in the brain eight days after the injury. That was despite the fact that their symptoms had usually gone away by that point.

However, the study involved just 18 athletes and it's too early to know what the findings might mean, experts said.

"Does the decreased blood flow indicate a window of cerebral [brain] vulnerability? Nobody has shown that yet," said Kenneth Podell, co-director of the Methodist Concussion Center in Houston.

According to Podell, who was not involved in the study, it's remarkable that the athletes' brain blood flow actually declined as their concussion symptoms improved, since that's counterintuitive on the surface.

But if the symptoms have gone away, Podell said, it's not clear that the blood flow change would be something to worry about -- especially if it's short-lived.

Study leader Dr. Yang Wang, an associate professor of radiology at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, called the findings "interesting," but just a first step.

"We don't have enough data to tell parents or doctors what to do at this point," Wang said.

He was to present the findings Monday at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, in Chicago. Research presented at meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

The study comes at a time of growing concern over the possible long-term effects of concussions -- especially repeated concussions -- in young athletes. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 248,000 U.S. children and teens land in the ER each year because of a concussion suffered during sports or other physical activities, like bike riding.

Concussions can cause a range of symptoms: a headache that gradually worsens, nausea, dizziness, confusion and irritability are among them.

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