Children's Health

Researchers identify brain circuit that predicts player’s risk of injury

Researchers at Wake Forest School of Medicine have identified a brain circuit that predicts injury risk for a subset of athletes, according to preliminary research presented as a late-breaking clinical laboratory tool in the American Journal of Physiology—Cell Physiology.

The study looked for changes in the least-squamous area of the skin called its subcutaneous fat distribution, which has many of the same functions as subcutaneous fat. “We felt it was a good opportunity to use this issue to understand a potential link to neurological conditions,” said the study leader, Paul E. Heisler, Ph.D., professor of biomedical engineering, and head, neck, and vulvar anatomy at Wake Forest School of Medicine.

For the study, Heisler, first author Emily D. Maneses, M.D., Ph.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and colleagues 125 women aged 18 to 45 years participated in the Wake Forest Baptist Health Study, a comprehensive network of medical professional athletes (nurses and soldiers) recruited during the late 1990s. All had normal T-muscle functions and were no doubt at an increased risk for injury compared with a similar group of 25 without increased injury risk. The researchers assessed these women based on their physical examinations and determined their risk of negative neurological and psychiatric outcomes. Negative outcomes included depression, agitation, memory loss and chronic pain.

The team found:

“This work is vital because it helps increase our understanding of the mechanisms behind those reported due to inflammation and increased pain sensitivity in athletes that are prone to injury,” said Heisler. “It also can impact physicians and clinicians so we can use this information to better individualize screening recommendations and aid in the prevention of injury-related neurocognitive dysfunction in athletes.”