Participation in sport is an extremely popular activity among individuals of all ages. While there are considerable benefits to engaging in sporting activities, one of the potential consequences is concussive injury – which has a rather large prevalence among contact sports athletes. Although most athletes experiencing a concussion recover with several days of injury, a proportion of individuals may develop long lasting symptoms or long-term consequences. Exposure to repeated concussive and subconcussive blows, such as those experienced by athletes of collision sports, has been proposed as the genesis for chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Despite considerable focus of this particular topic, there have been no prospective studies published in the literature at this point.
The current research study proposes to examine the long-term consequences of sports-related concussion in a group of current and retired professional sports athletes. The retired athletes will be placed in two groups (short-term retired [≤10yrs] and long-term retired [>10yrs]). Current athletes will form one group. A well matched control group, screened for neurological, cognitive and psychiatric conditions, will also be recruited to the current study as a basis for comparison. We propose to conducted neuroimaging, cognitive testing and psychological/psychiatric assessment of each participant in order to examine whether those athletes with a greater number of reported concussions perform significantly different from those with less exposure and also to determine whether significant group differences are observed across the age ranges.
The findings of this research has the potential for a far reaching impact in terms of the management of sports-related concussion across all age ranges, in terms of return-to-play decision making, management of acute concussive injury and limiting an athlete’s further exposure to concussion.