A big unknown, the researchers said, is just how serious such injuries are for adolescents, whose brains are still developing. It could be the brain can recover more easily, or such injuries could continue to produce deficits that last a lifetime. "We just don't know," Chou said, adding that most previous studies have involved college-aged athletes and older adults.
Each year, there are 300,000 to 500,000 mild traumatic brain injury incidents, or concussions, with 100,000 tied to football, Chou said. He also cited a 2011 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that called such injuries a silent epidemic, with sports-related concussions in youths rising by 60 percent in the last decade. Another source of concussions, he added, is improvised explosive devices used in warfare.
Through an arrangement with Eugene-area schools, 20 high school athletes who had suffered a concussion -- primarily football players but also others from soccer, volleyball and wrestling -- were assessed within 72 hours of injury and then again one week, two weeks, a month and two months later. Each of the subjects, whose diagnosis was made by a certified athletic trainer and/or physician, was matched with a healthy control subject of the same sex, body size, age and sport.
"After two months following the concussions, these individuals were still significantly impaired in their executive function, compared to age-matched, activity-matched and gender-matched control populations," said co-author Louis Osternig, professor emeritus of human physiology and a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine.
Osternig, also a certified athletic trainer, noted that self-reports by the subjects about how they were feeling sometimes were at odds with test results, which continued to show subtle deficits in cognitive functioning. The researchers also noted anecdotal reports from concussed athletes and their parents of declines in academic perfo
|Contact: Jim Barlow|
University of Oregon