Sport-related concussion (SRC) has become a major health problem, affecting millions of athletes each year. Despite the increasing occurrence and prevalence of SRC, its underlying mechanism and recovery course have yet to be fully elucidated. The National Collegiate Athletic Association-Department of Defense Grand Alliance: Concussion Assessment, Research and Education (CARE) Consortium is a large-scale, multisite study of the natural history of concussion across multiple sports. The Advanced Research Core (ARC) of CARE is focused on the advanced biomarker assessment of a reduced subject cohort. This paper reports findings from two ARC sites to evaluate cerebral blood flow (CBF) changes in acute SRC, as measured using advanced arterial spin labeling (ASL) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). We compared relative CBF maps assessed in 24 concussed contact sport athletes obtained at 24-48 h after injury to those of a control group of 24 matched contact sport players. Significantly less CBF was detected in several brain regions in concussed athletes, while clinical assessments also indicated clinical symptom and performance impairments in SRC patients. Correlations were found between decreased CBF in acute SRC and clinical assessments, including Balance Error Scoring System total score and Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Test memory composite and impulse control composite scores, as well as days from injury to asymptomatic. Although using different ASL MRI sequences, our preliminary results from two sites are consistent with previous reports and suggest that advanced ASL MRI methods might be useful for detecting acute neurobiological changes in acute SRC.
Keywords: Arterial spin labeling; Cerebral blood flow; Concussion; Contact sport; MRI; Traumatic brain injury.