The molecular pathophysiology of concussive brain injury

Clin Sports Med. 2011 Jan;30(1):33-48, vii-iii. doi: 10.1016/j.csm.2010.09.001.


Concussion or mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is a condition that affects hundreds of thousands of patients worldwide. Understanding the pathophysiology of this disorder can help manage its acute and chronic repercussions. Immediately following mTBI, there are several metabolic, hemodynamic, structural, and electric changes that alter normal cerebral function. These alterations can increase the brain's vulnerability to repeat injury and long-term disability. This review evaluates current studies from the bench to the bedside of mTBI. Acute and chronic effects of concussion are measured in both animal and clinical studies. Also, the effect of repeat concussions is analyzed. Concussion-induced pathophysiology with regards to glucose metabolism changes, mitochondrial dysfunction, axonal injury, and structural damage are evaluated. Translational studies such as functional magnetic resonance imaging, magnetic resonance spectroscopy and diffusion tensor imaging prove to be effective clinical tools for both prognostic and treatment parameters. Understanding the neurobiology of concussion will lead to development and validation of physiological biomarkers of this common injury. These biomarkers (eg, laboratory tests, imaging, electrophysiology) will then allow for improved detection, better functional assessment and evidence-based return to play recommendations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology
  • Athletic Injuries / etiology
  • Athletic Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Biomarkers
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Brain Concussion / epidemiology
  • Brain Concussion / etiology
  • Brain Concussion / physiopathology*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / metabolism


  • Biomarkers
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Glucose