New findings from a cooperative medical study are showing further evidence of damage caused by concussion in young Canadian hockey players.
The Hockey Concussion Education Project - a collaboration of specialists from Canada and the United States - provided new physical evidence on Tuesday identifying early brain change as a result of concussions and observed that diagnosed concussion incidence was 3-5 times higher than previously reported.
Using advanced MRI imaging and analysis on 45 male and female adult CIS hockey players over the course of a season, the study revealed that clinically-diagnosed concussions are resulting in small, multimodal organic changes in the brains of athletes that have suffered them.
The HCEP study adds that that a history of concussion may result in alterations of the brain's white matter make-up. White matter affects how the brain learns and functions by transmitting signals from one part of the brain to the other.
Also, comparisons between male and female athletes in the study showed that while male athletes had more significant Susceptibility Weighted Imaging (SWI) MRI findings, female athletes demonstrated a higher incidence of concussion.
"What are our societal goals - will we foster the development of our young people's cognitive, social and physical potential in a safe and protected environment - or will we continue to teach and reward a culture of violence and accepted brain injuries as 'part of the game?,'" said Dr. Paul Echlin, the lead author of the study.
"Are we able to evolve and make significant or even radical changes in the sports themselves based on the scientific evidence of too many serious short and long-term brain injuries?"
HCEP - conducted by Harvard Medical School/Brigham and the Women's Hospital/Massachusetts General Hospital/Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging/Western University of Canada - has published peer-reviewed scientific findings twice (2010 and 2012) highlighting the high incidence of concussion and the damage inflicted on young hockey players.
For this study, the CIS players were asked to undergo MRIs at the beginning and end of the season. Those who had suffered concussions had MRIs within 72 hours of the brain injury and again at two weeks and at two months.