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Brain. 2014 Nov;137(Pt 11):2997-3011. doi: 10.1093/brain/awu236. Epub 2014 Sep 3.

Diffuse white matter tract abnormalities in clinically normal ageing retired athletes with a history of sports-related concussions.

Author information

1
1 Integrated Program in Neuroscience, Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University, Montreal, Canada.
2
2 University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.
3
3 Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montréal Research Center, Montreal, Canada.
4
3 Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montréal Research Center, Montreal, Canada 4 Department of Psychology, Université de Montréal, Montreal, Canada.
5
3 Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montréal Research Center, Montreal, Canada 5 Department of Psychology, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, Canada.
6
6 McConnell Brain Imaging Centre, McGill University, Montréal, Canada 7 Montreal Neurological Institute, Montréal, Canada.
7
4 Department of Psychology, Université de Montréal, Montreal, Canada 8 Centre de recherche en Neuropsychologie et Cognition, Université de Montréal, Montreal, Canada.
8
3 Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montréal Research Center, Montreal, Canada 9 Department of Psychology, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, Trois-Rivières, Canada louis.debeaumont@uqtr.ca.

Abstract

Sports-related concussions have been shown to lead to persistent subclinical anomalies of the motor and cognitive systems in young asymptomatic athletes. In advancing age, these latent alterations correlate with detectable motor and cognitive function decline. Until now, the interacting effects of concussions and the normal ageing process on white matter tract integrity remain unknown. Here we used a tract-based spatial statistical method to uncover potential white matter tissue damage in 15 retired athletes with a history of concussions, free of comorbid medical conditions. We also investigated potential associations between white matter integrity and declines in cognitive and motor functions. Compared to an age- and education-matched control group of 15 retired athletes without concussions, former athletes with concussions exhibited widespread white matter anomalies along many major association, interhemispheric, and projection tracts. Group contrasts revealed decreases in fractional anisotropy, as well as increases in mean and radial diffusivity measures in the concussed group. These differences were primarily apparent in fronto-parietal networks as well as in the frontal aspect of the corpus callosum. The white matter anomalies uncovered in concussed athletes were significantly associated with a decline in episodic memory and lateral ventricle expansion. Finally, the expected association between frontal white matter integrity and motor learning found in former non-concussed athletes was absent in concussed participants. Together, these results show that advancing age in retired athletes presenting with a history of sports-related concussions is linked to diffuse white matter abnormalities that are consistent with the effects of traumatic axonal injury and exacerbated demyelination. These changes in white matter integrity might explain the cognitive and motor function declines documented in this population.

KEYWORDS:

ageing; neuropsychology; sports-related concussions; white matter

PMID:
25186429
PMCID:
PMC4208464
DOI:
10.1093/brain/awu236
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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