Full recovery after a sports-related concussion (i.e., mild traumatic brain injury) is critical in order to prevent cumulative damage from future concussion. Unfortunately, the pressure to return to play often outweighs the need to wait for full recovery, and athletes often return to play sooner than they should. There have been various tools proposed to measure recovery after a concussion, but these have shown inconsistent results. There is an urgent need for a more reliable measure of recovery after concussion.
Electroencephalography (EEG) measures brain activity and has been shown to be a sensitive tool for showing slight changes in brain functioning. In a recent study of high school football players, EEG was able to detect abnormalities of brain activity in those who had been concussed as compared to those who had not been injured. Using an emergency department-based algorithm, the researchers were able to show that abnormal brain activity occurred beyond the point in which traditional clinical tools had indicated full recovery.
The implication of this study is that traditional clinical tests of brain function after a concussion are not adequately measuring recovery, and players may be returning to the game too soon. EEG may be a more precise and reliable tool, and should be considered as a standard test in the future.
Barr WB, Prichep LS, Cahbot R, Powell MR, & McCrea M. Measuring brain electrical activity to track recovery from sport-related concussion. Brain Injury. (January 2012).