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Front Neurol. 2018 Mar 27;9:196. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2018.00196. eCollection 2018.

Sport-Related Concussion Alters Indices of Dynamic Cerebral Autoregulation.

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MD/PhD Program, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Southern Medical Program, Reichwald Health Sciences Centre, University of British Columbia Okanagan, Kelowna, BC, Canada.
Experimental Medicine Program, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada.
School of Health and Exercise Sciences, University of British Columbia Okanagan, Kelowna, BC, Canada.


Sport-related concussion is known to affect a variety of brain functions. However, the impact of this brain injury on cerebral autoregulation (CA) is poorly understood. Thus, the goal of the current study was to determine the acute and cumulative effects of sport-related concussion on indices of dynamic CA. Toward this end, 179 elite, junior-level (age 19.6 ± 1.5 years) contact sport (ice hockey, American football) athletes were recruited for preseason testing, 42 with zero prior concussions and 31 with three or more previous concussions. Eighteen athletes sustained a concussion during that competitive season and completed follow-up testing at 72 h, 2 weeks, and 1 month post injury. Beat-by-beat arterial blood pressure (BP) and middle cerebral artery blood velocity (MCAv) were recorded using finger photoplethysmography and transcranial Doppler ultrasound, respectively. Five minutes of repetitive squat-stand maneuvers induced BP oscillations at 0.05 and 0.10 Hz (20- and 10-s cycles, respectively). The BP-MCAv relationship was quantified using transfer function analysis to estimate Coherence (correlation), Gain (amplitude ratio), and Phase (timing offset). At a group level, repeated-measures ANOVA indicated that 0.10 Hz Phase was significantly reduced following an acute concussion, compared to preseason, by 23% (-0.136 ± 0.033 rads) at 72 h and by 18% (-0.105 ± 0.029 rads) at 2 weeks post injury, indicating impaired autoregulatory functioning; recovery to preseason values occurred by 1 month. Athletes were cleared to return to competition after a median of 14 days (range 7-35), implying that physiologic dysfunction persisted beyond clinical recovery in many cases. When comparing dynamic pressure buffering between athletes with zero prior concussions and those with three or more, no differences were observed. Sustaining an acute sport-related concussion induces transient impairments in the capabilities of the cerebrovascular pressure-buffering system that may persist beyond 2 weeks and may be due to a period of autonomic dysregulation. Athletes with a history of three or more concussions did not exhibit impairments relative to those with zero prior concussions, suggesting recovery of function over time. Findings from this study support the potential need to consider physiological recovery in deciding when patients should return to play following a concussion.


autonomic dysfunction; autoregulation; blood pressure; cerebral blood flow; repetitive head impact exposure; transfer function analysis

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