Concussion research reveals surprising links between injured brain, heart
University of Regina professors working to develop objective tests for concussions
A University of Regina scientist is trying to find better ways of diagnosing concussions — and also finding more about the link between heart health and brain health.
Patrick Neary, a professor with the U of R kinesiology department is working on developing an objective way of diagnosing the condition, which is caused by blows to the head and commonly plagues athletes.
Currently, diagnosis can be tricky, he explained in an interview with Morning Edition host Sheila Coles. The doctor asks the patient whether he or she has headaches, or maybe ask questions about what year or day it is.
The problem with a subjective diagnosis, Neary said, is that it may not be accurate. The athlete, who wants to keep playing, may not be forthcoming with symptoms.
What's better is to look at objective data — brain-blood flow, heart rate, oxygen levels — that can provide a more accurate assessment.
The kinesiology centre has been working with more than 100 athletes with suspected concussions and has learned much about what helps put them on the path to recovery.
The link between a healthy heart and circulatory system and a healthy brain is one of the findings researchers have made at the university.
Concussed athletes often will display a "cardiovascular disregulation" demonstrated by a muted variability of the heart rate.
"One of the things we're learning is, it's probably a good idea to start back to some activity as soon as you can.," Neary said. "Not to exercise, but go and take your dog for a walk and potentially go do it two or three times a day."
Neary says he's hoping some the ideas developed at the university can spread to doctor's offices everywhere, so athletes with concussions can be diagnosed as soon as possible.