In a study on Canadian hockey players, researchers found that concussions cause significant changes in the brain’s microstructure, The New York Times reported.
The research team measured the effects of concussions on 45 male and female Canadian university hockey players. Researchers used magnetic resonance imaging analysis on the players before, during and after a single hockey season.
During the study period, researchers observed microscopic white matter and inflammatory changes in the brains of participants who had sustained at least one concussion. For participants who sustained a concussion or reported previous concussion diagnoses, MRI scans showed significant differences between their brains’ white matter microstructure and those of players who had not sustained a concussion.
According to the researchers, these changes may be the result of microhemorrhaging, neural injury or other inflammatory responses to brain trauma.
“We’ve seen evidence of chronic injuries later in life from head trauma, and now we’ve seen this in current players,” researcher Dr. Paul Echlin, an Ontario sports concussion specialist, told The New York Times.
The incidence of concussions among players in the study was three to five times higher than what has previously been reported in medical literature. However, the study’s findings were consistent with other recent studies showing concussions in hockey occur more frequently than previously believed.
“How many more studies do we need before we realize significant changes are needed in the way we play the game?” Echlin said.