Groundbreaking research into mild concussions by University of Victoria neuroscientist Brian Christie has determined that boys are far likelier to show mild concussion symptoms than girls.
Not only will boys show the symptoms earlier, to the naked eye, girls may not show mild concussion symptoms at all. Symptoms also take longer to show up in girls while boys tend to recover faster.
Christie pulled these findings from a study he led with a team of UVic grad and undergraduates in developing a controlled test called the Awake Closed Head Injury test. It studied the effects of mild impacts on juvenile rats which the animals can recover from. The results could lead to a new study, which in turn could lead to a further breakthrough, a much needed blood or saliva test that could diagnose concussions when they happen, Christie said.
To date, a lot of sideline testing or, post incident testing for concussions is based on subjective observations, he said adding the potential development of a blood or saliva test would be a massive leap forward in managing concussions.
“One of the problems with testing concussions is getting a controlled sample, and conducting them humanely on living specimens,” Christie said.
Typically, humans are off limits. Even if someone offered their brain tissue for a biopsy, there is no knowing how many impacts there were, or how hard the impacts were, that caused the concussions.
The crux of Christie’s newest paper is that “males tend to show acute symptoms right away, but they also seem to recover fairly quickly,” said Christie, who works in UVic’s division of medical sciences. “Conversely, females don’t show as significant behavioural symptoms in the acute phase, but they do a few days later. This suggests a slower, more progressive nature to their injury.”
Adolescents are most at risk for concussions with bicycle crashes listed as the leading cause of youth concussions in B.C.
However, concussions, and mild concussions, are also a notable issue in organized youth sports. Even with the knowledge of their danger, kids and their parents are often unsure and send the children back into the games, said Christie, who has educated parents and children of youth hockey on concussions.
The most quantitative way to measure this invisible injury is to create a blood that measures some type of biomarkers, Christie said. Ideally, there are certain molecules or proteins in the brain which don’t normally pass through the blood-brain barrier very readily, but do pass through in the case of a concussion.