Diffusion Imaging Reveals Sex Differences in the White Matter following Sports-Related Concussion

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Sports-related concussion (SRC) is a serious health concern. However, the temporal profile of neuropathophysiological changes after SRC and how these relate to biological sex are still poorly understood. This preliminary study investigated whether diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (dMRI) was sensitive to neuropathophysiological changes following SRC; whether these changes were sex-specific; and whether they persisted beyond the resolution of self-reported symptoms. Recently concussed athletes (n = 14), and age- and education-matched nonconcussed control athletes (n = 16), underwent MRI 24-48-h postinjury and again at 2-week postinjury (i.e., when cleared to return-to-play). Male athletes reported more symptoms and greater symptom severity compared with females. dMRI revealed white matter differences between athletes with SRC and their nonconcussed counterparts at 48-h postinjury. These differences were still present at 2-week postinjury, despite SRC athletes being cleared to return to play and may indicate increased cerebral vulnerability beyond the resolution of subjective symptoms. Furthermore, we identified sex-specific differences, with male SRC athletes having significantly greater white matter disruption compared with female SRC athletes. These results have important implications for the management of concussion, including guiding return-to-play decisions, and further improve our understanding regarding the role of sex in SRC outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4411-4419
Number of pages9
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021


  • biomarker
  • diffusion tensor imaging
  • fixel-based analysis
  • mild traumatic brain injury

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