Melatonin helps concussion outcomes (6/6/19 newsletter)

We are pleased to have students from Carleton College interning with Concussion Alliance. Intern contributors this week:

Editor: Galen Moller
Contributors: Hannah Kennicott, Eloïse Cowan
Research: Julian Szieff


A Concussion Reporting Workshop is now offered as part of coursework at the Newhouse School of Journalism (Syracuse University), the Medill School of Journalism (Northwestern University), and at Boston University. Students learn how to recognize concussion signs and symptoms, discuss potential long-term effects, describe league-specific concussion protocol, and practice calling potential concussion incidents. Sports reporting is a way to reach groups who often don’t have adequate concussion training, including many youth coaches and children from low-income families, according to an article on the Newhouse website.


As reported by the Daily Bruin, three former college football players filed multimillion-dollar lawsuits against UCLA, the former coach, and the NCAA this May. John Lopez, Poasi Moala, and Zachary Bateman allege that the health and safety of players were neglected; intense drills in practice resulted in repeated concussions, and the players were pushed back to play too quickly.


A study by Julio A. Yanes et al. found that “cannabinoids were associated with marked pain reduction.” The authors combined and analyzed the results of 25 peer-reviewed and placebo-controlled studies, and concluded that “cannabinoid-based pharmacotherapies may serve as effective replacement/adjunctive options regarding pain, however, additional research is warranted.” The study was published in Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology.


An article in the Daily Mail reports that in the U.K., doctors now more frequently order blood tests to measure hormone levels, particularly for patients with "symptoms such as fatigue, depression and erectile dysfunction, especially if they had suffered a blow to the head." Joanna Lane, the author of Mother Of A Suicide, lobbied for changes after discovering that a childhood blow to the head led to her son's decline. Lane's lobbying efforts had the result that "hospitals were also targeted to issue all patients treated for a traumatic brain injury with a leaflet warning of hypopituitarism, while soldiers and footballers – both groups at grave risk of head injury – are now routinely tested for it."


Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan found that concussion symptoms such as loss of balance, hazy comprehension, sleep disturbance and difficulty walking straight could be improved through low-frequency magnetic stimulation. Rodents with repeated concussions saw improvement in cognitive and motor skills after 4 days of using a laptop-style device for 20 minutes each day. Professor C. Taghibiglou hopes that with further testing, their work will lead to a “non-invasive, easy to use and cost-effective” treatment for cognitive impairment. The study by S. Sekar et al. was published in the Journal of Neurotrauma.

A study by KM Barlow et al. concludes that “there is evidence that melatonin treatment after TBI significantly improves both behavioral outcomes and pathological outcomes.” The study was a review and meta-analysis of 15 pre-clinical, and 2 clinical studies; they found that the “pre-clinical data revealed an overall positive effect on neurobehavioural outcome,” including neurological status and cognition. The two clinical studies were of low quality, and the authors point to the need for more research. The study was published in the Journal of Neurotrauma.


The U.S. Army Research Laboratory has awarded a $2.3 million grant to develop helmets that will “use advanced optical fiber sensors, embedded in smart helmets, to instantly warn soldiers of the severity of a concussive event in the field so that treatment can be sought immediately.” The project will involve using large scale data acquisition of blast impacts in the lab, making use of machine learning to develop a “decision-making framework” to ascertain the severity of an impact. The grant is supported by the Acute Effects of Neurotrauma Consortium (AENC) and was award to Dr. Jie Huang, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Missouri S&T; the news was announced on the university website.


A study by Lindsay D. Nelson, PhD et al. found that patients with mild traumatic brain injuries who present at Level I trauma centers commonly report “persistent, injury-related life difficulties at one-year post-injury.” After one year, 53% of mTBI patients reported “functional limitations,” compared to a control group of orthopedic trauma injury patients, 38% of whom reported impairments. The authors conclude that “the term mild TBI misrepresents the immediate and long-term burden of TBI.” They observe a need for “more systematic follow-up of patients with mTBI to provide treatments and reduce the risk of chronic problems after mTBI.” The study was published in JAMA Neurology.

Additional contributors

Malayka Gormally