Sub-acute Changes on MRI Measures of Cerebral Blood Flow and Venous Oxygen Saturation in Concussed Australian Rules Footballers

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Abstract

Background: Sports-related concussion (SRC) is common in collision sport athletes. There is growing evidence that repetitive SRC can have serious neurological consequences, particularly when the repetitive injuries occur when the brain has yet to fully recover from the initial injury. Hence, there is a need to identify biomarkers that are capable of determining SRC recovery so that they can guide clinical decisions pertaining to return-to-play. Cerebral venous oxygen saturation (SvO2) and cerebral blood flow (CBF) can be measured using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and may provide insights into changing energy demands and recovery following SRC. Results: In this study we therefore investigated SvO2 and CBF in a cohort of concussed amateur Australian Football athletes (i.e., Australia’s most participated collision sport). Male and female Australian footballers (n = 13) underwent MRI after being cleared to return to play following a mandatory 13-day recovery period and were compared to a group of control Australian footballers (n = 16) with no recent history of SRC (i.e., > 3 months since last SRC). Despite the concussed Australian footballers being cleared to return to play at the time of MRI, we found evidence of significantly increased susceptibility in the global white matter (p = 0.020) and a trend (F5,21 = 2.404, p = 0.071) for reduced relative CBF (relCBF) compared to the control group. Further, there was evidence of an interaction between sex and injury in straight sinus susceptibility values (F1,25 = 3.858, p = 0.061) which were decreased in female SRC athletes (p = 0.053). Of note, there were significant negative correlations between straight sinus susceptibility and relCBF suggesting impaired metabolic function after SRC. Conclusions: These findings support the use of quantitative susceptibility mapping (QSM) and relCBF as sensitive indicators of SRC, and raise further concerns related to SRC guidelines that allow for return-to-play in less than two weeks.

Original languageEnglish
Article number45
Number of pages8
JournalSports Medicine - Open
Volume8
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

Keywords

  • Hypometabolism
  • Mild traumatic brain injury
  • Neuroimaging
  • Quantitative susceptibility mapping
  • Return-to-play

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