Dr. Patrick Neary of the University of Regina has begun to research further the pathophysiological effects of a concussion in hopes of earlier and better detection. Anne McIlroy, a science reporter for the Globe and Mail has written about Dr. Neary’s efforts as of late;
Ultimately, Dr. Neary would like to develop new diagnostic techniques that a trainer [athletic] or doctor could use in a dressing room and that would identify a concussion in a player like Pittsburgh Penguin star Sidney Crosby, who said he felt no symptoms after being blindsided in game on Jan. 1. Four days later, he was crushed against the glass by a Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman. He hasn’t played a game since.
We have seen that there is a cascade of effects going on with a concussion, and Dr. Neary and his team are trying to pinpoint certain events, such as blood flow. Although none of the information has been published there is some interesting findings that were reported;
The differences in cerebral blood flow between a concussed and a healthy brain are subtle and there is a wide range of natural variability between individuals. So, Dr. Neary devised two small challenges to help him identify signs of a concussion.
He asks the athletes to hold their breath for 20 seconds, then to breathe normally for 40 seconds, and to repeat the exercise five times. In healthy individuals, this results in significant increase in blood flow to the brain, but not, it appears, in concussed athletes.
In the second challenge, similar to the first, he asks them to hyperventilate for 20 seconds. This normally decreases the flow of blood to the brain, but the drop is more dramatic in concussed individuals.
A peer at the National Research Council, Ryan D’Arcy is working on the electrical portion of the equation;
Concussions can also alter the electrical activity of the brain.
The National Research Council’s Ryan D’Arcy is working on a portable device that he hopes will be able to detect some of these differences. In particular, he wants to know how a concussed brain responds to different kinds of stimuli, including tones and verbal statements.
All of this research will lead to better awareness, detection and management.