Johns Hopkins Doctor Seeking Swimmers for Study on Brain Injury Recovery

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.

Leave a Reply

Notify of
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
4 months ago

Some of y’all have never had teammates who can’t stay on their side of the lane, or ever done open water… pretty sure I’ve had plenty of mild head injuries hahah

4 months ago

Would be interesting to see a study on the effects of chlorine saturation on swimmers. The skin sure does a good job soaking up chemicals it is exposed to!

Ol' Longhorn
4 months ago

Florian Wellbrock should be studied. Any dude that wins a a 10K OW world championship and later in the meet sets a WR in the 1500 has to have some serious brain damage.

Reply to  Ol' Longhorn
4 months ago

I haven’t stopped laughing at this

4 months ago

Who doesn’t love a good lumbar puncture every now & then?

4 months ago

“Up to $500”

That’s almost certainly not worth the time, never mind the ‘option’ lumbar puncture they’re hoping you’ll do

Science Fan 123!
Reply to  SwimmerFan99
4 months ago

Might not be worth the time but free travel to Baltimore and potentially a scientific contribution might be incentive enough!

Steve Nolan
7 months ago

The comment section is the best place to look for brain-damaged swimmers.

7 months ago

Great research. I’d do it, but I’m almost 50 and there’s significant doubt that I have a brain.

7 months ago

I’m going to speculate that swimming comes out as the safer sport — all the way around.
But, at 67, my brain is not worth studying – and the lumbar puncture? There are braver souls than I!

About Annika Johnson

Annika Johnson

Annika came into the sport competitively at age eight, following in the footsteps of her twin sister and older brother. The sibling rivalry was further fueled when all three began focusing on distance freestyle, forcing the family to buy two lap counters. Annika is a three-time Futures finalist in the 200 …

Read More »