OBJECTIVE: To study longitudinal recovery trajectories of white matter after sports-related concussion (SRC) by performing diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) on collegiate athletes who sustained SRC. METHODS: Collegiate athletes (n = 219, 82 concussed athletes, 68 contact-sport controls, and 69 non-contact-sport controls) were included from the Concussion Assessment, Research and Education Consortium. The participants completed clinical assessments and DTI at 4 time points: 24 to 48 hours after injury, asymptomatic state, 7 days after return-to-play, and 6 months after injury. Tract-based spatial statistics was used to investigate group differences in DTI metrics and to identify white-matter areas with persistent abnormalities. Generalized linear mixed models were used to study longitudinal changes and associations between outcome measures and DTI metrics. Cox proportional hazards model was used to study effects of white-matter abnormalities on recovery time. RESULTS: In the white matter of concussed athletes, DTI-derived mean diffusivity was significantly higher than in the controls at 24 to 48 hours after injury and beyond the point when the concussed athletes became asymptomatic. While the extent of affected white matter decreased over time, part of the corpus callosum had persistent group differences across all the time points. Furthermore, greater elevation of mean diffusivity at acute concussion was associated with worse clinical outcome measures (i.e., Brief Symptom Inventory scores and symptom severity scores) and prolonged recovery time. No significant differences in DTI metrics were observed between the contact-sport and non-contact-sport controls. CONCLUSIONS: Changes in white matter were evident after SRC at 6 months after injury but were not observed in contact-sport exposure. Furthermore, the persistent white-matter abnormalities were associated with clinical outcomes and delayed recovery time.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology