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Regular season of play can cause brain changes similar to concussion: Western researchers

PhD candidate Amy Schranz and professor and scientist Robert Bartha, PhD.
PhD candidate Amy Schranz and professor and scientist Robert Bartha, PhD. Western University, 2018

Concussion or no, research suggests that a regular season of play can have an impact on the brain.

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Western University researchers looked at metabolite levels in the brains of female varsity rugby players at the beginning and end of the season as well as after any players suffered a concussion.

“What we found is that the players that had suffered a concussion during the season had a large reduction in the level of a metabolite called glutamine,” said Robert Bartha, PhD.

“We also showed that players that didn’t have a concussion had a similar but smaller reduction of this metabolite called glutamine, when we looked at their baseline measures compared to their after-season measures.”

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READ MORE: University athletes with concussions still show changes in the brain after medical clearance to play

Bartha, a professor at the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry and scientist at the Robarts Research Institute, described glutamine as an interesting metabolite involved in a number of different brain processes.

The research also found that the changes didn’t reverse even after clinical scores for concussion had returned to normal and athletes were cleared to play.

Researchers were also able to compare the subjects to themselves, rather than comparing them to a control group.

READ MORE: Toronto doctor refutes CFL’s claim there’s not enough evidence to link concussions to CTE

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“We studied the female varsity rugby team here at Western University and that team was chosen in particular because females are under-reported in the literature,” said PhD candidate Amy Schranz.

“We followed this team for five seasons and that allowed us to collect data on over 50 individuals, which included over 20 concussions across 15 individual players.”

The study authors believe the research could be used to more accurately assess recovery of brain injury from a concussion.