The effects of repetitive head impacts on neuroimaging and biomarkers in college athletes
Forlivio, Steven Joseph
MetadataShow full item record
Football safety has increased over time, in part due to improvements in equipment and body mechanics, but there are still inherent risks involved, including exposure to repetitive head impacts (RHI). Significant head impacts can result in a constellation of symptoms including nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness, and amnesia, which typically assist in the diagnosis of concussion. However, it has been shown that subconcussive impacts may result in microstructural changes and physiological alterations in the brain. This is particularly concerning because athletes may be undergoing changes in the brain in the absence of outwardly visible symptoms. Poorer neurologic outcomes later in life have been associated with cumulative exposure rather than number of diagnosed concussions. Accelerometers installed in helmets have shown that college football players may receive up to 1,850 head impacts throughout the course of one season. The concussion rate is obviously much lower, indicating there are a high number of head impacts per diagnosed concussion. Axons are especially susceptible to damage from RHI because of their extension throughout the nervous system. The subtle changes thought to result from RHI are not easy to measure, but several modalities have been proposed. These include diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), plasma tau protein, and King-Devick testing. The proposed study will look to quantify cumulative head impact exposure in college football players prior to the start of a season and see if this has any impact on the variables. They will then participate in one season of football wearing helmet accelerometers to measure the number of head impacts sustained. Changes in the variables will be compared to non-contact sport college athletes. Data will be analyzed to determine if number of head impacts correlates with changes in variables and if prior head impact exposure has any effect on these changes. Data obtained from this study will have significant implications in the field of head injury. It may strengthen the use of several markers of brain injury that could be utilized in the future. Additionally, the effects of cumulative head impact exposure and one season of head impacts will be thoroughly examined. This information can be provided to trainers, coaches, and athletes to further improve football safety.