A recent reportedly first-of-its-kind study suggests that rest for more than 1 day after a concussion is critical for allowing the brain to reset neural networks and repair any short-term injury.

The study, published recently in American Journal of Pathology, also suggests that recent mild concussions with only a day to recover between injuries could lead to increasing damage and brain inflammation that may remain evident a year after injury.

“It is good news that the brain can recover from a hit if given enough time to rest and recover. But on the flip side, we find that the brain does not undertake this rebalancing when impacts come too close together,” says the study’s lead researcher, Mark P. Burns, PhD, assistant professor of neuroscience at GUMC and director of the Laboratory for Brain Injury and Dementia, in a media release from Georgetown University Medical Center, in the release.

Burns and others on the research team from Georgetown University developed a mouse model in which the mice received repetitive, extremely mild concussions. From the model, the scientists compared the brain’s response in the mice to a single concussion with an injury received daily for 30 days and one received weekly over 30 weeks.

Mice who received a single blow to the head temporarily lost 10% to 15% of the neuronal connections in their brains, but no inflammation or cell death resulted, according to Burns in the release. After 3 days rest, all neuronal connections in the mice were restored. This neuronal response was not seen in mice who received daily concussions, but the neuronal pattern was restored after the mice received a week of rest between each blow to the head, per the release.

Among the mice that received a mild concussion each day for a month, there was inflammation and damage to their brains’ white matter. “This damage became progressively worse for 2 months and remained apparent 1 year after the last impact,” Burns states in the release.

“The findings mirror what has been observed about such damage in humans years after a brain injury, especially among athletes,” Burns explains in the release.

“Studies have shown that almost all people with single concussions spontaneously recover, but athletes who play contact sports are much more susceptible to lasting brain damage. These findings help fill in the picture of how and when concussions and mild head trauma can lead to sustained brain damage,” he adds.

[Source(s): Georgetown University Medical Center, Science Daily]