UNL Research Finds Concussions Have Lasting Consequences

Posted By: Alden German

Researchers from UNL’S Center for Brain, Biology, and Behavior have found concussions can cause cognitive delays that build up over years.

Contact sports are rough, dirty, and physical. By the end of the game players are tired, sweaty, and beat up. Some are more intense than others, carrying a higher risk of injury.

The dangers of a concussion have been the center of attention, and researchers are learning more about the impacts. Dr. Dennis Molfese, a professor of psychology at UNL, co–wrote a recently released study made up of over 200 students, 30 of whom were former Nebraska football players. He says that the effects of even just one concussion can be felt for the rest of a player’s life.

"Concussion in fact is a permanent brain injury. The brain suffers an injury and it’s not back to where it was just because time has passed," says Molfese.

He says after a concussion, the brain attempts to repair itself to minimize the damage done. However, it can only do so much.

"It’s able to compensate up to a point a number of injuries," says Molfese. "But then it reaches a point, and this varies because of genetics, lifestyle, and other things, it comes a point it can no longer fully compensate for the previous injuries."

The brain has a network of pathways it uses to operate. When there’s a brain injury, it has to rewire itself to create new pathways around the damage. Molfese says that even up to a year after the initial concussion, the brain can still be trying to rewire.

Even with those new pathways, much like a detour on a highway, it will take information in the brain longer to travel to its destination. This can affect memory and learning, a problem especially for students.

There are varying levels of concussions and do not affect everyone exactly the same.

"There’s also genetic factors that probably play a role in this like everything else. Some people may be more resilient, but repetitive head blows, regardless of resilience, would look to be a very bad thing to have happen to your brain," says Molfese.

Dr. Molfese also stressed that parents shouldn’t just rely on family doctors as not all have expertise in concussions.

If your child is injured, there are multiple concussion specialists in the Lincoln area.