Neurovascular Coupling by Functional Near Infra-red Spectroscopy and Sport-related Concussion in Retired Rugby Players: The UK Rugby Health Project

Sharma, A
Hind, K
Hume, P
Singh, J
Neary, JP
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Journal Article
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Frontiers Media

Aim: This study investigated cerebral hemodynamic responses to a neurovascular coupling (NVC) test in retired contact athletes with a history of repeated mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) and in controls with no history of mTBI. Methods: Twenty-one retired rugby players (47.7 ± 12.9 year old; age at retirement: 38.5 ± 8.9 year; number of years playing rugby: 12.7 ± 3.7 year) with a history of three or more diagnosed concussions (8.9 ± 7.9 concussions per player) and 23 controls with no history of mTBI (46.5 ± 12.8 year old) performed a NVC test to detect task-orientated cerebral hemodynamic changes using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). Results: The NVC showed a statistically significant reduction in the cerebral hemodynamic response in comparison to the control group which had a greater relative increase of oxyhemoglobin (O2Hb). There were reductions in left middle frontal gyrus (MFG) O2Hb (-0.015 ± 0.258 μM) and relative increases in deoxyhemoglobin (HHb; -0.004 ± 0.159 μM) in the same region for the mTBI group in comparison to the control group (-0.160 ± 0.311 μM; -0.121 ± 0.076 μM for O2Hb and HHb, respectively). The mTBI group induced a greater rate of oxygen extraction compared to the control group. Conclusion: This was the first study to examine cerebral hemodynamic changes in retired rugby players in response to a NVC test, and we found reduced cerebral hemodynamic responses in participants with a history of mTBI compared to controls. These results suggest altered cerebral metabolic demands in participants with a history of multiple head injuries. Further research is needed to ascertain an understanding of the changes in hemodynamics from playing into retirement.

Brain , Concussion , Contact sport , Neuroimaging , Retired athletes
Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. 14:42. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2020.00042
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Copyright © 2020 Sharma, Hind, Hume, Singh and Neary. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.