By: Allan M. Siegel
Researchers from Johns Hopkins have reported findings that evidence of
brain injuries and reparative processes can be seen on brain imaging from
young and recently retired NFL athletes. According to a report published
in JAMA Neurology, the study used PET and MRI technology to visualize
the brains of athletes and compare them to a similar men who did not have
concussions or brain injuries in their past.
Researchers suggest the results of the study show that certain imaging
techniques can be a viable tool for monitoring the brains of NFL players
and other athletes who commonly suffer concussions. By measuring TSPO,
an indicator of brain injury, early on in an athlete’s career, medical
professionals will be able to monitor athletes over time and see if the
brain is capable of repairing itself.
In a previous study from Johns Hopkins, researchers found higher levels
of TSPO in nine former NFL players compared to individuals in the control
group. Because the players were elderly, however, researchers were not
able to determine if the signs of brain injury were also linked to aging
or vascular disease.
In an effort to address the issue, the new study reviewed imaging data
from 12 younger NFL players who were either still playing or recently
retired. For the control group, researchers matched 11 men without a history
of concussions based on their size and educational similarities.
By using radioactive chemicals that bind to TSPO, researchers were able
to visualize whether there had been a cellular response to brain injury.
In brains without injury, TSPO is found in low levels. Higher levels of
the TSPO biomarker on a PET scan can highlight where injuries and repairs
occur. The study noted higher TSPO radiotracer binding in players compared
to non-players in 8 of 12 brain regions. This includes the hippocampus,
the part of the brain responsible for memory.
The study adds additional research to a rising amount of evidence and studies
that suggest concussions incurred in football and other contact sports
result in increased risks of brain damage and chronic traumatic encephalopathy,
or CTE. In addition to monitoring athletes and informing them of risks,
visualizing brain injuries and reparative processes could aid in testing
prevention methods or treatments that can improve players’ lives.
As a firm with a legacy of advocating for brain injury victims and athletes
across the DC metro area, Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C.
closely follows the latest developments in brain injury research. This
provides our team with the scientific evidence needed to help others understand
the tremendous impact of traumatic brain injuries, and enables us to ensure
the victims and families we represent get the appropriate treatment and
any future care they may need.