NFL Players: Concussions With Loss Of Consciousness Linked To Later Memory Problems and Brain Changes

C. Munro Cullum, PhD, ABPP Professor of Psychiatry and Neurology & Neurotherapeutics Pamela Blumenthal Distinguished Professor of Clinical Psychology Chief of Psychology Director of Neuropsychology Univ. of Texas Southwestern Medical Center Dallas, TX  75390-9044 MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
C. Munro Cullum, PhD, ABPP
Professor of Psychiatry and Neurology & Neurotherapeutics
Pamela Blumenthal Distinguished Professor of Clinical Psychology
Chief of Psychology , Director of Neuropsychology
Univ. of Texas Southwestern Medical Center Dallas, TX

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Cullum: My colleague and principal investigator of the study, Dr. John Hart and I have been interested in the acute and longer-term effects of traumatic brain injury for years, and because of my roles in the Alzheimer’s Disease Center and the Texas Institute for Brain Injury and Repair at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, it seemed like a natural to begin studying older individuals with and without cognitive disorder who have a history of traumatic brain injury.  Our main findings are two-fold:

First, we demonstrated that a history of concussion with loss of consciousness (which make up only about 10% of all concussions) was associated with smaller memory centers in the brain (the hippocampus) and lower memory results in our sample of retired professional football players. Concussions that did not result in loss of consciousness did not show that same strong association.

Second, our data suggest that patients with a clinical diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment (ie a memory disorder that does not grossly impair overall functioning but may lead to dementia) who also have a history of concussion with loss of consciousness show worse memory results and more brain atrophy than similar individuals diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment in the absence of a history of concussion.

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Depressive symptoms and white matter dysfunction in retired NFL players with concussion history

MedicalResearch.com eInterview with:

John Hart, M.D. Medical Science Director at the Center for BrainHealth Jane and Bud Smith Distinguished Chair Cecil Green Distinguished Chair The University of Texas at DallasJohn Hart, M.D.
Medical Science Director at the Center for BrainHealth
Jane and Bud Smith Distinguished Chair
Cecil Green Distinguished Chair
The University of Texas at Dallas

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Hart: Football players often sustain numerous concussive and subconcussive impacts—head impacts that do not elicit neurologic symptoms that may lead to white matter damage. We evaluated a population of retired NFL players in order to study the relationship between white matter integrity and the manifestation of depressive symptoms. We identified, for the first time, a correlation between depression and white matter abnormalities in former players with a remote history of concussion using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI).

Our data demonstrated a significant association between white matter integrity, as measured by DTI Fractional Anisotropy (FA), and the presence as well as severity of depressive symptoms in retired NFL athletes with a history of concussive or subconcussive impacts. We also found that dysfunction of the anterior aspect of the corpus callosum (forceps minor) and its projections to the frontal lobe can identify those with depression with 100% sensitivity and 95% specificity.

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