Concussions in youth and adult sports remain a significant concern. Research over the past several years has shown the importance of proper diagnosis and follow up. The tools to perform these assessments are for the most part subjective. The best we have has been mental status exams using a list of questions and a subjective clinical examination by a physician.
A concussion is a mild brain injury. This injury can happen anywhere in the brain, and being able to tease out its effects are challenging.
A research group at McGill University are exploring new objective tools for measuring concussions. In recent years, spatial memory and learning methods can be impaired with concussion. Patients were examined with standard testing as well as a spatial memory test using a ‘virtual reality neighborhood’ while undergoing a functional MRI scan. The concussion and control patients showed no difference on the standard tests, however, the functional MRI scans showed differences in brain activity.
This type of test using MRI puts forth the idea of a truly objective measure of brain function to determine if a concussed athlete has ‘recovered’.
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Dr. Scott Hacker is a Sports Medicine Orthopedic Surgeon in San Diego, CA, Team Surgeon to the US Olympic Team. He specializes in sports medicine and sports injuries, knee and shoulder surgery.
If you have questions about sports injuries, or concussions, please feel free to contact me at Ask Dr. Hacker or through my office.
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