Dr. Jennifer Coughlin in Johns Hopkins University’s Department of Psychiatry is working on a research study to see if the brain is protected from inflammation and damage through participation in sports.
They are using Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging on former NFL players and collegiate swimmers (as an elite athletic comparison to NFL players) to track how mild but repeated traumatic brain injury impacts inflammation.
“Research is showing that the answer to the question above may depend on the sport,” Coughlin wrote to SwimSwam. “In contact sports like American football, repeated traumatic brain injury from concussive and subconcussive hits may promote brain inflammation.
“The problem with that inflammation is that it can drive the brain’s immune cells to take on detrimental functions over time, and there is worry that the brain’s inflammatory response may lead to toxic protein build-up in the brains of collision sport athletes. Toxic proteins may cause lasting damage to brain cells, or neurons, and the integrity of these neurons is critical to brain functions like memory, mood, and attention. Many worry that former American football players may be at risk for dementia or depression because of this sport-related inflammatory process.
“On the other hand, swimming poses less risk for traumatic brain injury. For this reason, when it comes to studying brain inflammation in sport, elite swimmers are a great group to study and compare to American football players. The study of inflammation in the living brain is achievable using brain imaging technology, combined with complementary blood tests.”
The research team is looking for healthy 23-to-50-year-old male swimmers who:
- have at least 2 years of collegiate athletic experience
- Have not been diagnosed with a neurological disorder
Participation will involve
- A PET scan
- An MRI scan
- An option lumbar puncture
“All participants will be compensated for travel to Baltimore and will receive payment of up to $500,” the recruitment graphic says.
Contact Coughlin at [email protected] or 443-287-4701 if you fit these parameters and are interested in participating in the study.