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.