A history of concussion with loss of consciousness may be associated with increased brain atrophy in the area involved with storing memory and impaired memory performance, according to a study published in JAMA Neurology.

In the study, a team of researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center evaluated the relationship of memory performance with hippocampal volume and the influence of concussion history in 55 retired National Football League (NFL) athletes with and without mild cognitive impairment.

Of the 55 former players, eight were diagnosed as having mild cognitive impairment with a history of concussion; 21 were cognitively healthy control subjects with no history of concussion or football experience; and six were control subjects with mild cognitive impairment but no history of concussion.

Data showed that those with a history of concussion but without mild cognitive impairment had normal but lower scores on verbal memory vs. control participants. Similarly, those with a history of concussion with mild cognitive impairment performed worse vs. both control subjects and those without memory impairment. Researchers found no difference in scores between the subjects with mild cognitive impairment and those with impairment on the test.

Similar hippocampal volumes were seen in those without a concussion and loss of consciousness and control subjects across age ranges. Those with at least one concussion and with loss of consciousness showed smaller hippocampal volumes vs. control subjects; the left hippocampal volume was also smaller in those with mild cognitive impairment and concussion vs. control subjects with impairment.

Researchers concluded that a history of concussion with loss of consciousness is linked to future decreases in hippocampal volume and memory performance in retired NFL athletes.


1. Strain JF, et al. JAMA Neur. 2015; doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2015.0206

This article originally appeared on MPR