At least 300 000 sports-related concussions occur in the United States annually. With millions of American athletes, the long-term effects of repeated concussion or mild traumatic brain injury are an important topic. Unfortunately, there is a lack of strong data on the causality or prevalence of long-term effects among athletes. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive neurodegenerative tauopathy, with associated clinical, behavioral, and neuropathological findings, is an important clinical entity in need of further study. Diffusion tensor imaging can elucidate trauma-induced white matter damage, but the diagnosis of CTE cannot be proven until postmortem neuropathology shows characteristic neurofibrillary and astrocytic tangles. Concern exists that athletes subject to repeated concussive and even subconcussive blows may be at risk of CTE, but no definitive data exist due to the difficulty in diagnosis. Animal models suggest that mild traumatic brain injuries lead to primarily a metabolic derangement with increased excitotoxic neurotransmitter release, extracellular potassium, and intracellular calcium. Further understanding of the underlying pathophysiology may eventually lead to better therapeutic and diagnostic options for the treating clinician.
Current Concepts in Sports Concussion is online and full-text access is free.