DR BAZARIAN VO: A concussion is a blow to the head that results in some symptoms, and the symptoms have to do with an alteration in consciousness at the time of the head hit. DR HIRAD VO: I asked him, “What’s the prognosis of a single concussion?” And the answer was kind of shocking because “We don’t know yet.” And so that basically pushed me to try to
figure out if there’s a way to diagnose it using imaging and blood biomarker techniques. [ Cheering ] DR BAZARIAN: When you think about brain injury along a continuum, where you can have a little bit up to a lot, and, at some point, people
develop a symptom like loss of consciousness, amnesia, or confusion. But you can get some brain injury without
having those symptoms. And that’s the real public health threat because we don’t recognize those right now, and we don’t treat people as if they had an concussion, which is with rest, and we pull them away from getting hit in the head. DR HIRAD: And so for us to establish that
baseline diagnosis of injury to the brain, we need to pick a region of the brain that
we can use as a marker for injury exacerbation over time. DR BAZARIAN: Where we found damage in our study was in this middle part of the brain called the mid-brain. No matter where the head gets hit — on the side, on the front, on the top, on the bottom, the head rotates. And no matter how the head rotates, that rotational force kind of gets translated right down here at the bottom, right where this mid-brain
section comes through the skull and into the neck DR HIRAD: Once we realized that the mid-brain fit these criteria, the question then was, “How do we test what’s happening in that region of the brain within a season of football, even if you didn’t have a concussion?” There were 38 football players that were scanned with advanced MRI techniques before and after the season. They wore helmets that have sensors that measure every hit — the direction that the hit is coming from, it measures the exhilaration,
the elevation. And that data is then wirelessly transmitted to a computer that’s sitting on the sideline. We were able to measure a lot of the force factors of each impact. It sort of gave us a three-dimensional understanding of all the hits they were taking to the head throughout the season. DR BAZARIAN: Sports gives us a really unique opportunity to see how somebody goes from a normal brain to a demented brain, and we can kind of see it happen right before our eyes We can see what the brain is like before the injury, we can see it getting injured and measure every aspect of it, and then follow it after injury and see how dementia does or does not develop. And I think that that would give us some amazing clues as to how we could not only prevent things like CTE but prevent Alzheimer’s, prevent Parkinson’s. So I think we can make some huge contributions to helping not just athletes but non-athletes, as well.