Diffusion-tensor MRI (DTI-MRI) helps shed light on concussio
Diffusion-tensor MRI (DTI-MRI) is helping researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine explore the effects on the human brain of heading a soccer ball. In a new study, they found that players who head the ball more often are more likely to have concussion symptoms.

For several years now, the Einstein Soccer Study has been asking athletes to report their concussion symptoms from a variety of causes, ranging from the seemingly innocuous -- such as heading the ball -- to collisions with other players or a goalpost. By scanning players prior to play, the researchers can get a before-and-after look at the brains of athletes who have had concussions.

The key method for uncovering soccer's neurological effects is DTI-MRI, which can show areas of abnormally low fractional anisotropy that correlate with nerve fiber damage and cognitive impairment. A 2013 study by Lipton et al found that soccer players who headed the ball six to 12 times per game performed poorly on memory tests and had brain abnormalities similar to those found in patients with traumatic brain injury based on DTI-MRI brain scans."MRI potentially allows us to see changes in the brain before there are overt symptoms or brain dysfunction," Lipton explained. "Most importantly, MRI helps us understand the mechanisms of what's going on in the brain, which can be very important when thinking about preventive strategies."

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