Open Access Research article

Metabolic changes in concussed American football players during the acute and chronic post-injury phases

Luke C Henry1*, Sébastien Tremblay1, Suzanne Leclerc2, Abdesselam Khiat3, Yvan Boulanger3, Dave Ellemberg12 and Maryse Lassonde1

Author Affiliations

1 Centre de Recherche en Neuropsychologie et Cognition, Department of Psychology, University of Montreal, Montréal, Québec, Canada

2 Centre de Recherche en Neuropsychologie et Cognition, Department of Kinesiology, University of Montreal, Montréal, Québec, Canada

3 Department of Radiology, University of Montreal and Hôpital Saint-Luc, Montréal, Québec, Canada

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BMC Neurology 2011, 11:105  doi:10.1186/1471-2377-11-105

Published: 23 August 2011



Despite negative neuroimaging findings many athletes display neurophysiological alterations and post-concussion symptoms that may be attributable to neurometabolic alterations.


The present study investigated the effects of sports concussion on brain metabolism using 1H-MR Spectroscopy by comparing a group of 10 non-concussed athletes with a group of 10 concussed athletes of the same age (mean: 22.5 years) and education (mean: 16 years) within both the acute and chronic post-injury phases. All athletes were scanned 1-6 days post-concussion and again 6-months later in a 3T Siemens MRI.


Concussed athletes demonstrated neurometabolic impairment in prefrontal and motor (M1) cortices in the acute phase where NAA:Cr levels remained depressed relative to controls. There was some recovery observed in the chronic phase where Glu:Cr levels returned to those of control athletes; however, there was a pathological increase of m-I:Cr levels in M1 that was only present in the chronic phase.


These results confirm cortical neurometabolic changes in the acute post-concussion phase as well as recovery and continued metabolic abnormalities in the chronic phase. The results indicate that complex pathophysiological processes differ depending on the post-injury phase and the neurometabolite in question.

MRI spectroscopy; sports concussion; recovery; metabolism