1. Slow motion makes soccer referees more likely to give a red card

    July 17, 2017 by Ashley

    From the KU Leuven press release:

    Video assistant refereeing in soccer has to be used with caution. Researchers at KU Leuven (University of Leuven), Belgium, have shown that refs are more likely to give red when they see a foul committed in slow motion, even when a yellow card is more justifiable. This is because fouls viewed in slow motion appear to be more serious.

    Soccer referees and the decisions they make are the subject of very heated debates in the canteen, at the kitchen table, and in the TV studio. soccer fans keep a vigilant eye on their every move and decision. These high demands have led to professionalization: more and more elite referees are full-time professionals and follow specific training programmes. Another consequence are the experiments with video assistant refereeing, whereby video assistant referees (VARs) support the referees and check the accuracy of decisions by replaying game situations in real time and in slow motion.

    Under the supervision of Professor Wim Helsen, sport scientist at KU Leuven and referee training expert, Jochim Spitz wrote a PhD on the impact of slow motion videos on soccer referees’ perception and decision-making process. He found that the effect of slow motion greatly depends on the type of decision that the referee has to make, as well as on the situation.

    For technical decisions on whether or not a foul was committed, watching slow motion videos only improved the accuracy in corner kick situations. “Corner kicks always involve many players, so slow motion may help spot the right fouls in the commotion,” Spitz explains.

    But for disciplinary sanctions on whether or not to give a card — and if so, which one — slow motion had a significant impact on the decision-making process. “We asked 88 European referees to take a disciplinary sanction for 60 game situations — yellow, red, or no card at all. They had to assess half of the situations after watching a video in real time and the other half based on slow motion videos. For each of these situations, a panel of UEFA experts had given us a benchmark decision. We found that referees judge more harshly when they are exposed to fouls in slow motion. In situations for which the benchmark decision was a yellow card, 20% percent of the referees gave red after watching the video in slow motion. In real time this was only 10%.”

    “The reason is that fouls viewed in slow motion appear to be more serious” Professor Werner Helsen explains. “This has major implications for the adequate use of video technology in soccer. Based on the results of this study, the International soccer Association Board (IFAB) has already issued guidelines for the use of slow motion videos: they can only be used to determine whether a foul was committed inside or outside the penalty area, or to locate the impact of a tackle on the opponent’s body.”


  2. Sport feels less strenuous if you believe it’s doing you good

    July 15, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Freiburg press release:

    “Sport is too much like hard work.” For many, that is reason enough to pass when it comes to exercise. But does sport really have to make you break into a sweat? Psychologist Hendrik Mothes of the Department of Sport Science at the University of Freiburg and his team discovered that one’s own expectations have a major influence on just how strenuous one perceives a unit of sport to be. The researchers also found that how the person doing the sport felt about himself or herself played a big role in this feeling of strain. Moreover, it can sometimes be smart to enlist help from supposedly useful sports products — if you believe in them. The results of the study have been published in PLOS ONE.

    The research team invited 78 men and women between 18 and 32 into the laboratory, where these test persons rode a stationary bicycle-ergometer for 30 minutes. Beforehand, they were asked to say how athletic they thought they were. And they were asked to put on a compression shirt produced by a well-known sporting goods manufacturer. During their exercise, they were asked every five minutes what level of strenuousness they were experiencing. Right before the exercise, the participants were assigned to different groups and shown one of several short films that either stressed the positive health effects of the coming cycling activity, or dampened the expectations. And the compression shirts were mentioned: In some of the films, the shirts were praised as an additional help in cycling, while other films indicated that they would make the test persons’ sweating comparable. “What the participants did not know was that we used these film clips with the aim of influencing their expectations of the coming cycling session,” Mothes says.

    The results showed, as expected, a self-fulfilling prophecy that the training unit was less strenuous for the test persons when they started out with a positive attitude. The more athletic the participants perceived themselves to be, the stronger this effect was. However, positive expectations did not help participants who considered themselves not very athletic. They found the training unit strenuous anyway. The researchers also found that believing in the compression shirt helped. To the subjects who considered themselves athletic, it made no difference; but for those who said they weren’t much good at sports, there was quite an effect. “Merely the belief that the shirt would help, did help the ‘unsporty’ subjects to have a lower perception of strenuousness during the exercise,” Mothes explains.

    These findings are further evidence that the placebo effect works when you do sport. And they show that is it does make a difference what you think about sport and its effects. “Not least, the findings impressively show for all those who don’t consider themselves to be great sportsmen and -women – the right product really can make sport more pleasant, if ‘only’ you believe in it.”


  3. Study suggests how a girl is raised can influence her adult sporting success

    July 10, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Frontiers press release:

    The ability to produce peak performance plays a decisive role in the success of athletes in competitive sport. A desire to be the best is one of the most important traits in a top athlete, but where does this desire come from — are we born with it or is it a learned characteristic?

    Traditionally, research on female sporting success has focused on biological and genetic differences. A new study, published in the open-access journal, Frontiers in Psychology, instead looks at the motivation level of successful female footballers and whether their upbringing influences this desire to succeed.

    “We find that at higher competition levels, the more likely it is for female athletes to savour the more aggressive elements of a sporting contest,” says Danie Meyer-Parlapanis, who conducted this research as part of her PhD thesis at the University of Konstanz, Germany. “This is particularly the case when they have been raised in less traditional families and have greater engagement with more masculine interests and role models.”

    Meyer-Parlapanis and her co-authors asked ninety female football players, from the German premier and regional leagues, to fill in a questionnaire based on aggressive behaviour research in military troops. That research found that long-term combat produced a fascination and enthusiasm for direct confrontation, which can override self-control and inhibition. The desire to beat an opponent, whether that be in military combat or on the playing field is similar and can lead to a single-minded approach where victory becomes paramount.

    The answers to the questionnaires revealed that players from the premier league, deemed as the more successful athletes, exhibited greater fighting spirit and more pleasure in the game of football itself. When this result was compared to similar findings in the combative field, it suggested these players are less susceptible to distraction, fear and stress during the game.

    “But rather than focusing solely on the player’s appetite for success,” explains Meyer-Parlapanis, “we also examined how their upbringing and exposure to gender stereotypes influenced this feeling.”

    She continues, “How a child is raised, what toys and games are accessible, and what role models they see — both in and out of the home — all play direct roles in how they view themselves and experience the world around them. Non-traditional socialization can yield non-traditional outcomes. In this case, female athletes breaking with tradition to perform in a sport that, until 1970, was exclusively reserved for males. Additionally, moving further away from female stereotypes, many of these female athletes do more than simply play the game, they savour the battle on the pitch.”

    The authors of this study hope that their research will be used as a basis for examining how those with a minority status deal with and succeed in areas where they have not traditionally been expected to do well.

    Meyer-Parlapanis concludes, “In sport, there is a long road ahead for male and female equality in pay, status and media attention. Further research will serve to reduce stigma and raise more awareness to the challenges facing female athletes around the world.”


  4. Study suggests tennis cheats may be predicted by their moral standards

    July 6, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Frontiers press release:

    When top athletes cheat it makes headline news. Retaliating badly to a foul, faking an injury, or deliberately harming an opponent can all result in a loss of credibility and respect. In some cases, it can lead to a loss of sponsorship and even long-term disqualification.

    So why do some athletes engage in immoral sporting conduct, when there is so much to lose?

    Previous research has discussed how the motivation for playing sport in the first place, as well as overall sporting morals and values, can lead to cheating behavior. A new study, published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Psychology, examines these personal characteristics and links them to direct observations of cheating during tennis matches.

    “We find that tennis players who use sport to boost their egos, and view success as their ability to outperform others by winning at all costs, tend to condone cheating and other dubious methods of gaining an advantage during match play. However, those players who strive to be the best they can be, and interpret success through their own personal improvement, tend to respect sporting rules and social conventions,” says Fabio Lucidi, Professor of Psychometrics at Sapienza University of Rome, Italy and lead author of the study. “Our most important discovery is that these attitudes can have a direct influence on whether a player cheats during a tennis match.”

    Lucidi and his colleagues surveyed hundreds players participating in the 2012 LemonBowl in Rome — one of the most important international tennis tournaments for young competitive players. They asked questions that could be used to measure a player’s sporting values, ultimate sporting goals (self-improvement or increased status), and attitudes towards cheating and dubious match play. Rather than ask the players directly whether they cheated or acted immorally during a match, a number of independent observers were used to record this behavior.

    “We used trained observers to assess cheating and dubious behavior during competitive matches. By doing this, we could rule out any bias from answers given by the players themselves. Cheating behavior is generally viewed as socially and culturally undesirable and their answers would be likely to reflect this,” says Lucidi.

    The answers given by the players revealed a connection between certain moral values and the acceptance of cheating behavior. These characteristics were then directly linked to the observation of cheating behavior during match play. While previous research has discussed the possible link between cheating and moral attitudes, this is the first study to have linked them directly.

    “Parents often encourage sporting activities for their children, assuming that it will help them develop a correct sense of morality. While this assumption might hold true in some cases, our study suggests that playing sport may actually elicit behavior that is ethically or morally inappropriate” says Lucidi.

    He continues, “Indirectly, our study highlights ways that parents or coaches can promote good sporting behavior in children. For instance, coaches should promote values of personal success and achievement, rather than those of ego and status, in order to decrease the risk of antisocial or ethically inappropriate behavior in sport.”

    It is hoped that this research will act as a basis for future studies clarifying the psychology of cheating in sport. “More direct observations of cheating across different sporting disciplines and professional levels are needed. It would be interesting to see how sporting values, moral standards and views on cheating develop over an athlete’s sporting career,” concludes Lucidi.


  5. Study suggests short-term sleep loading can improve sports performance

    June 19, 2017 by Ashley

    From the American Academy of Sleep Medicine press release:

    Preliminary results from a new study suggest that short-term sleep extension improves response time and daytime functioning of professional baseball players.

    Results show that after five nights of sleep extension, professional baseball players from an MLB organization demonstrated a 13-percent improvement on a cognitive processing speed test by reacting 122 milliseconds faster. They also responded 66 milliseconds faster on a test of selective attention when confronted with distractors. According to the authors, a fastball takes approximately 400 milliseconds to travel from the pitcher to the hitter, requiring batters to have optimal visual search strategies to distinguish and react to different types of pitches.

    “Our research indicates that short-term sleep extension of one additional hour for five days demonstrated benefits on athletes’ visual search abilities to quickly respond when faced with distractors,” said lead author Cheri D. Mah, MS, research fellow at the University of California San Francisco Human Performance Center.

    The research team led by Mah conducted a randomized, controlled trial during a 4-week training camp. Seventeen professional baseball players from an MLB organization completed a two-day baseline of habitual sleep. Athletes then were randomized to either five nights of sleep extension or five nights of habitual sleep. Pre- and post-cognitive tests included the Digit Symbol Substitution Task (DSST) and an adaptive visual search task. Mood and daytime sleepiness were evaluated with the Profile of Mood States (POMS) and Epworth Sleepiness Scale.

    In the sleep extension group, the objective, estimated sleep duration measured by actigraphy increased by 0.6 hours per night from 6.3 to 6.9 hours. Assessments of fatigue, tension, and daytime sleepiness all decreased by more than one-third after sleep extension.

    “Fatigue over a season can negatively impact performance and possibly pitch recognition,” said Mah. “These findings suggest that short-term sleep loading during periods of high training volumes may be a practical recovery strategy and fatigue countermeasure that has daytime performance benefits.”

    The research abstract was published recently in an online supplement of the journal Sleep and will be presented Monday, June 5, in Boston at SLEEP 2017, the 31st Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC (APSS), which is a joint venture of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society.

    In a previous study published in the journal Sleep, Mah found that a 5-7 week sleep extension period was associated with improvements in specific measures of basketball performance among collegiate athletes.


  6. Light exposure in the evening improves performance in the final spurt

    June 2, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Universität Basel press release:

    Many sports events take place late in the evening, during television prime time. At this time of day, however, many athletes often fail to perform at their best due to their sleep-wake cycle. In a study headed by Professor Arno Schmidt-Trucksäss, Raphael Knaier and colleagues at the University of Basel investigated whether light exposure before a cycling time trial can compensate for this disadvantage. The Sports and Exercise Medicine division, as well as Professor Christian Cajochen at the Centre for Chronobiology, took part in this extensive investigation involving 74 young male athletes.

    It is well known that blue light reduces the production of the sleep hormone melatonin. The researchers tested the hypothesis that this suppression of melatonin could improve an athlete’s endurance during a 12-minute cycling time trial. They randomly divided the participants into three groups and exposed them to either bright light, blue monochromatic light or control light for an hour. This light exposure was immediately followed by the performance test on the bicycle ergometer.

    Bright light is less effective

    Exposure to blue light significantly improved the athletes’ ability to increase their performance during the final spurt of the time trial. This increase was defined as the ratio of the performance measured in the first minute to that of the last minute of the test. The subjects’ improved performance in the final spurt also correlated with the amount of blue light. This light was able to effectively suppress the melatonin and thus influence the athletes’ sleep-wake cycle.

    Compared to the control light, bright light led to a small increase in overall performance, but the difference was not significant. “Since even minor differences are relevant in top-level sport, however, this should be investigated more closely in further studies,” commented Professor Schmidt-Trucksäss.


  7. Study suggests cognitive behavioral therapy could help stress in sport

    May 21, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Leeds Beckett University press release:

    Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) could be a powerful tool to help elite sportspeople improve their performance by handling stress more effectively, new research has found.

    The study, by Leeds Beckett and Loughborough Universities, is the first to show that CBT can change how high-level athletes respond to organizational stress within their sport, and that this can have significant benefits for their emotions and performance.

    Sport psychology researcher, Dr Faye Didymus, worked with four high-level female hockey players over nine months, using a CBT technique called cognitive restructuring to help them identify what put them under pressure, understand how they responded emotionally, and then consider more helpful alternative responses. The results were immediate: things that they had viewed as threats, players began to see instead as challenges, resulting in more positive emotions and higher satisfaction with their performance.

    Dr Didymus, from the Carnegie Research Institute at Leeds Beckett University, said: “Cognitive restructuring can help people take control of what they think about stress, which is incredibly empowering. This is particularly true in sport where individuals have to perform under pressure, either alone or as part of a team. CBT has been used in health and business settings to improve individuals’ wellbeing and performance but it’s wider use in sport is long overdue.”

    The players were from the Investec Women’s Hockey League, which, although amateur, includes the top teams in England, with players selected from the League to compete at international level. Although most players are also working or studying full-time, teams can have up to five training sessions and two competitive matches each week.

    Selection and deselection from their team and the presence of England selectors at a big game were some of the causes of stress — known as ‘stressors’ — identified by the players during the research. Others included lack of communication from the coach, issues with teammates or training, large crowds at matches and poor umpire decisions.

    The players were assessed before the CBT began to identify those who would be most likely to benefit from the programme. Each player then took part in an in-depth personalised programme of CBT to help them understand their current thoughts about stress, associated emotions, and how these might be changed by CBT. For example, for a player who was thinking ‘I must play well or I will ruin my chance of selection,’ an alternative would be suggested, such as: ‘If I play well, I’ve a good chance of being selected,’ which views selection as a challenge rather than a threat. Players would then be asked to think about how this different thought might change their feelings or emotions.

    Over the nine months, the players moved from considering these alternative responses theoretically and in discussion with Dr Didymus to coming up with their own ‘alternatives’ and integrating those into their thought processes whenever they trained or competed.

    An immediate positive impact was seen on all of the stress-related variables that Dr Didymus targeted: the players started to view more stressors as challenges than threats, positive emotions predominated, and the players’ performance satisfaction began to increase. When the players were assessed three months after the programme, these benefits had been maintained.

    One of the players who took part in the research explained her experiences as follows: ‘If I’m thinking about stressors as a challenge not a threat then I play better. I learnt how to see things as a challenge, which has helped my performance.’ Another said: ‘I practice thought adjustment in training like I do my hockey so it comes naturally in matches and nine times in ten I’m more satisfied with how I perform.’

    Given the success of the trial, Dr Didymus believes that the programme she’s developed should now be adapted and tested across a range of sports: “Ours was a small trial in one sport so we now need to see if this can replicated in other sports with the same positive effects,” she said. “We’d also like to integrate objective measures of performance within future trials, and to look at how improving individuals’ responses to stress can benefit the team as a whole.”


  8. Study looks at motivations behind participation in extreme sports

    May 16, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Queensland University of Technology press release:

    Researchers have debunked the myth that extreme sportsmen and women are adrenalin junkies with a death wish, according to a new study.

    The research has been published in the latest edition of Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research and Practice by QUT Adjunct Professor Eric Brymer, who is currently based at Leeds Beckett University in the UK, and QUT Professor Robert Schweitzer.

    Professors Brymer and Schweitzer said extreme sports were leisure activities in which a mismanaged mistake or accident could result in death, such as BASE jumping, big wave surfing and solo rope free climbing.

    “Extreme sports have developed into a worldwide phenomenon and we are witnessing an unprecedented interest in and engagement with these activities,” Professor Brymer said.

    “While participant numbers in many traditional team and individual sports such as golf, basketball and racket sports seem to have declined over the past decade, participant numbers in extreme sports have surged, making it a multi-million dollar industry.”

    Professor Brymer said until now there had been a gross misunderstanding of what motivates people to take part in extreme sports, with many writing it off as an activity for adrenalin junkies.

    “Our research has shown people who engage in extreme sports are anything but irresponsible risk-takers with a death wish. They are highly trained individuals with a deep knowledge of themselves, the activity and the environment who do it to have an experience that is life enhancing and life changing,” he said.

    “The experience is very hard to describe in the same way that love is hard to describe. It makes the participant feel very alive where all senses seem to be working better than in everyday life, as if the participant is transcending everyday ways of being and glimpsing their own potential.

    “For example, BASE jumpers talk about being able to see all the colours and nooks and crannies of the rock as they zoom past at 300km/h, or extreme climbers feel like they are floating and dancing with the rock. People talk about time slowing down and merging with nature.”

    Professor Schweitzer said understanding motivations for extreme sports were important to understanding humans.

    “Far from the traditional risk-focused assumptions, extreme sports participation facilitates more positive psychological experiences and express human values such as humility, harmony, creativity, spirituality and a vital sense of self that enriches everyday life,” Professor Schweitzer said.

    He said because extreme sports participants found it hard to put their experiences into words, the research project had taken a new approach to understanding the data.

    “So rather than a theory based approach which may make judgements that don’t reflect the lived experience of extreme sports participants, we took a phenomenological approach to ensure we went in with an open mind,” he said.

    “This allowed us to focus on the lived-experience of extreme sport with the goal of explaining themes that are consistent with participants’ experience.

    “By doing this we were able to, for the first time, conceptualise such experiences as potentially representing endeavours at the extreme end of human agency, that is making choices to engage in activity which may in certain circumstances lead to death.

    “However, such experiences have been shown to be affirmative of life and the potential for transformation.

    “Extreme sport has the potential to induce non-ordinary states of consciousness that are at once powerful and meaningful.

    “These experiences enrich the lives of participants and provide a further glimpse into what it means to be human.”


  9. Concussion outcome predicted using advanced imaging

    June 10, 2016 by Ashley

    From the Albert Einstein College of Medicine media release:

    brain scanUsing an advanced imaging technique, researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Health System were able to predict which patients who’d recently suffered concussions were likely to fully recover. The study also sheds light on the brain’s mechanisms for repairing or compensating for concussion injuries–information that could speed the development of therapies. The study was published online in the American Journal of Neuroradiology.

    “Our study presents for the first time a precision approach to harness imaging at the time of concussion to forecast outcome a year later,” said study leader Michael L. Lipton, M.D., Ph.D., professor of radiology, of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, and of neuroscience, as well as associate director of the Gruss Magnetic Resonance Research Center (MRRC) at Einstein and director of MRI services at Montefiore. “While we still lack effective treatments, we now have a better understanding of the neurological mechanisms that underlie a favorable response to concussion, which opens a new window on how to look at therapies and to measure their effectiveness.”

    Each year, 2.5 million people in the United States sustain traumatic brain injuries (TBI), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Concussions account for at least 75 percent of these injuries. Diagnosing concussion is based on assessing symptoms; there is no objective biomarker or test. Symptoms can vary widely–lasting for just seconds or sometimes not appearing for days or weeks after injury. Common symptoms including seizures, trouble sleeping, decreased coordination, repeated vomiting or nausea, confusion, and slurred speech.

    “While most people think of concussions as a mild and short-lived injury, 15 to 30 percent of patients are left with symptoms that persist indefinitely,” said Sara Strauss, M.D., the study’s lead author and resident in the department of radiology at Montefiore. “Until now, we haven’t had a reliable way to differentiate in advance those who may be burdened long-term and those who would have a complete recovery.”

    Conventional imaging techniques, such as CT scans and MRI, cannot detect the subtle damage to axons (the nerve fibers that constitute the brain’s white matter) that is associated with concussions. But in a previous study, Dr. Lipton and his colleagues demonstrated that an advanced form of MRI called diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) can detect concussion-related damage to axons. It does so by “seeing” the movement of water molecules along axons, which allows researchers to measure the uniformity of water movement (called fractional anisotropy, or FA) throughout the brain. Finding a low FA brain region, for example, indicates structural damage that has impeded water movement in that area.

    In the current study, Dr. Lipton tested whether brain abnormalities identified on DTI of individual concussion patients could distinguish between those patients who will eventually recover and those who will not. DTI was performed on 39 patients diagnosed with mild TBI by an emergency room physician within 16 days of the initial injury and on 40 healthy controls. The DTI image of each patient was compared with images for the entire group of healthy controls to see where patients’ brains were abnormal. Patients were also assessed for three measures: cognitive function, post-concussion symptoms and health-related quality of life measures. A year later, 26 of the concussion patients returned for follow-up assessments.

    DTI imaging comparing concussion patients and healthy controls revealed two types of white-matter abnormalities in patients: (1) areas of abnormally low FA (red, in associated image) that correlate with axon damage and the cognitive impairment that can affect concussion patients; and (2) other brain areas with abnormally high FA (blue) that may indicate where the brain has responded favorably to injury, perhaps by more efficiently connecting axons or by remyelinating injured tissue (i.e., forming fatty tissue around nerves, which allows nerve impulses to move more quickly).

    The amount of high FA imaged in brains predicted patients’ outcomes following concussion. Having a greater volume of abnormally high FA white-matter areas (perhaps indicating good compensation for concussion damage) was associated with better outcomes on follow-up assessments. (This doesn’t mean that the low FA areas showing white-matter damage aren’t important–just that they’re not useful in predicting recovery from concussion a year later.)

    “Being able to predict which patients have a good or bad prognosis has tremendous implications for discovering and evaluating treatments for concussion,” said Dr. Lipton. “Developing an effective intervention requires first identifying the people who need it. Seventy to 85 percent of concussion patients get better by themselves, which makes it difficult to learn whether any treatment is actually helping. Our imaging technique allows researchers to test potential therapies on those concussion patients who can truly benefit from them.”

    Dr. Lipton noted that most therapies tried so far for TBI have focused on reducing damage from brain injury or preventing an injury from progressing, but none has proven effective. “Our findings,” he said, “suggest that it might be worthwhile to try a different strategy–namely, attempting to enhance the brain’s innate abilities to compensate functionally and structurally for whatever damage has been done.”

    Dr. Lipton cautions that further studies are needed to validate this approach for predicting concussion outcomes. “While we were able to predict the outcomes for the patients in our study; more refined approaches–incorporating additional patient and injury characteristics, for example–may be needed when applying the test on widely differing individuals,” he said.

    A video on the research can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bYnlFqQ9hn0&feature=youtu.be


  10. Ultrasound headset may be new way to recognize concussion on the sidelines

    April 15, 2016 by Ashley

    From the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) media release:

    brain scanMapping blood flow in the brain of athletes using an advanced form of ultrasound may make it easier to more accurately recognize concussions, according to a study released today that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 68th Annual Meeting in Vancouver, Canada, April 15 to 21, 2016.

    “There is growing evidence that concussions can change the blood flow in the brain,” said study author Robert Hamilton, PhD, co-founder of Neural Analytics in Los Angeles, Calif., and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. “While such changes may be detected with MRI, we believe there may be a less expensive and portable way to measure these changes with a transcranial Doppler (TCD) device.” More than one million athletes experience a concussion each year in the United States. TCD uses ultrasound to map blood flow activity in the brain. Traditionally, it has measured variables like the speed and variability (pulse) of blood flowing through the arteries. But those measurements haven’t been enough to accurately detect concussion.

    For this study, researchers used an advanced version of TCD ultrasound to get a more complete picture of just how the blood moves through the middle cerebral artery, one of the three major arteries in the brain.

    Researchers compared a group of 66 high school athletes in contact sports who had been recently diagnosed with a concussion to a control group of 169 high school student athletes from both contact and non-contact sports. Examples of collision sports included in the study were football, soccer, basketball, hockey, water polo and lacrosse. The non-contact sports included were cheerleading, cross country, cycling, tennis and track. Both the control and concussion groups were approximately 30 percent female.

    Each of the concussed athletes had their brain blood flow measured with the advanced ultrasound headset within an average of six days after the injury. They were also given a general concussion evaluation and had their blood pressure checked.

    The study found that the advanced version of TCD ultrasound was able to differentiate between healthy and concussed athletes 83 percent of the time. This is in contrast to traditional TCD ultrasound measurements like change in cerebral blood flow reactivity which differentiated between the two 60 percent of the time, average blood flow speed which differentiated 55 percent of the time and blood flow resistance which differentiated 53 percent of the time.

    “This research suggests that this advanced form of ultrasound may provide a more accurate diagnosis of concussion,” said Hamilton. “While more research is needed, the hope is such a tool could one day be used on the sidelines to help determine more quickly whether an athlete needs further testing.”

    “This important work provides insight into a tool that may yet prove useful in the recognition and management of concussion,” said Jeffrey Kutcher, MD, FAAN, with the The Sports Neurology Clinic in Brighton, Michigan. “The potential of having an accessible technology that detects a physiological change following brain trauma is very exciting. However, what these detected blood flow changes mean to a patient’s clinical care is still unclear.”

    “This is an important area of research. Testing of the TCD technique at the sideline at the time of injury will be an important next step to determine its ultimate utility,” said Randolph S. Marshall, MD, MS, with Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York and a member of the American Academy of Neurology’s Science Committee.

    The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.