WEDNESDAY, Nov. 30 (HealthDay News) -- New research shows how a concussion can cause damage in a young athlete's brain that may last longer than thought.
In a preliminary study of 12 children with sports-related concussions, the majority experienced immediate decreased blood flow to their brains. Nearly two-thirds showed persistent, significant differences compared to non-injured athletes after two weeks, and one-quarter still had low blood flow to the brain more than a month after the injury occurred.
"In general, we think decreased cerebral blood flow leads to decreased delivery of nutrients such as oxygen and glucose to the brain," explained study author Dr. Todd Maugans, a faculty member at the University of Cincinnati. And weaker blood flow, in itself, could affect brain function, he said.
The good news is that specialized MRIs found no structural damage -- such as chemical changes, brain bleeds or torn nerves -- in any of the 12 children (nine boys and three girls) with concussions from football, wrestling or soccer. Twelve additional children who had no concussions served as controls for the study.
The 24 children in the study, aged 11 to 15, completed computerized tests to measure reaction time, verbal memory, visual memory and visual motor speed. In the first three days after being injured, children with concussions had slower reaction times than those in the control group. By two weeks, the gap had narrowed and, after a month, there was no significant difference.
The study appears online Nov. 30 and in the January 2012 print issue of Pediatrics.
"In high school football players, about 6 percent of kids get concussions in a season. On a team of 60 players, about three will be affected in a season," said Dr. Matt Grady, a pediatric sports medicine specialist at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
The new study's message is "that pedi
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