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Detecting Traumatic Brain Injury from Concussion

Concussion is big news these days. Word that the NFL will face a massive lawsuit from more than two thousand former professional football players affected by brain injuries and concussions has made front page headlines. But concussion impacts not only professional athletes but also amateur athletes – especially teenagers and young men and women.

A 14-hospital nationwide study led by researchers at Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City found that concussions more than doubled between 20o1 and 2010 in those 18 and younger. Some experts say young girls with long necks and weak neck muscles may be most at risk.

A study published in April 2012 in The American Journal of Sports Medicine shows that soccer is the second-most dangerous sport in the U.S. behind football for those 15 to 24-years-old. There are more than 300,000 cases of concussion among this age group every year. The most dangerous soccer activity: heading the ball.

Despite the increased attention, it can still be difficult for doctors to detect concussion. The clinical diagnosis of concussion is usually based on symptoms and physical evaluation because imaging technologies such as traditional MRIs and CT scans are typically not revealing.

However, a new study shows promise in detecting concussion through more advanced imaging.

Physician-scientist Michael Lipton, an Einstein and Montefiore Medical Center M.D.-Ph.D. radiologist has extensively studied the impact of concussion on the brain. In December 2011, Dr. Lipton, associate director of Einstein’s Gruss Magnetic Resonance Research Center and medical director of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) services at Montefiore presented research at a meeting of the Radiological Society of America on the dangers of soccer heading that raised alarm bells.

Now, Dr. Lipton and his colleagues have published an intriguing study in the journal Brain Imaging and Behavior that shows how a recently developed technique, known as EZ_MAP, allows DTI (diffusion tensor imaging, an MRI-based imaging technique) to be used to detect traumatic brain injury as a result of concussion in individual patients– and may allow doctors to provide more accurate diagnoses in the future and determine which treatments are most effective.

Listen to Dr. Lipton explain his new findings and their implications.

Have you or someone you know even been diagnosed with concussion? Share your story in the comments below.

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