Recent reports have shown that concussions are much more serious than previously believed. But what actually happens to the brain during a concussion?
Being that concussions affect many athletes (adult and children alike) a great deal of attention has been given to this issue lately.
“A recent remarkable experiment allowed scientists to see inside the skull and brain of animals that had just experienced a concussion, providing sobering new evidence of how damaging even minor brain impacts can be. While the results, which were published in Nature, are worrisome, they also hint at the possibility of treating concussions and lessening their harm,” according to The Times.
Scientists are studying athletes who have suffered from concussions.
The Times reports, “Concussions occur when the brain bounces against the skull after someone’s head is bumped or jolted. Such injuries are fairly common in contact sports, like football and hockey, and there is growing concern that repeated concussions might contribute to lingering problems with thinking or memory. This concern was heightened this week by reports that the brain of the late major league baseball player Ryan Freel showed symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative condition. He reportedly had been hit in the head multiple times during his career. But scientists did not know exactly what happens at a molecular level inside the brain during and after a concussion.”
The Times explains on how concussions can be treated. “Researchers saw, these membranes became slightly ripped and frayed by the force of the concussion, leaving them leaky and the brain potentially vulnerable to the influx of molecules. Reactive oxygen species are known to play a role in various normal tissue processes, including the inflammatory response to any injury, but in excess they can contribute to cell death and tissue damage. In the case of concussion, the body mounted a brave repair campaign, sending specialized immune cells from the blood and the brain to patch and fill in the frayed membranes. But the process was too slow; they soon caused the death of brain cells. While concerning, this development also suggested to the scientists the possibility of treatment. If they could reduce the number of free radicals clustering near the brain, they could lessen the subsequent damage. So, in follow-up experiments, they inserted large amounts of a powerful antioxidant into the space between the animals’ skull and brain. Antioxidants soak up free radicals and, it turned out, dramatically blunted the trauma associated with impacts to the brain.”