A loss of just two percent of the body's water volume to dehydration -- a feat easily achieved during prolonged exercise in hot weather -- can lead to a significant reduction in the amount of cerebrospinal (CSF) fluid that a person has. CSF acts as a cushion to protect the brain from hitting against the inside of the skull during jarring movements. For football players, games conducted in hot and humid conditions could present the perfect storm of risk factors to up their chances for a concussion.
Researchers at the University of Windsor investigated whether the incidence of concussion increased along with the temperature. J. Craig Harwood presented the research team's findings in a poster session on Monday, April 28, at the Experimental Biology Meeting. Experimental Biology is an annual meeting comprised of more than 14,000 scientists and exhibitors from six sponsoring societies and multiple guest societies. With a mission to share the newest scientific concepts and research findings shaping current and future clinical advances, the meeting offers an unparalleled opportunity for exchange among scientists from throughout across the United States and the world who represent dozens of scientific areas, from laboratory to translational to clinical research. www.experimentalbiology.org
Harwood et al. compiled data on 420 NCAA FBS game-time concussions that occurred during games played outside over a five year period (2008-2012). They also looked at environmental conditions (temperature, humidity, and wind speed) during those games.
From the authors: "The relationship between hydration status and injury occurrence, such as skeletal muscle cramps, is well known, but more information is needed regarding physiological status and the risk of more severe injury like concussion. We were initially interested in the link between dehydration and concussion frequency/severity, however this type of observation was obviously problematic (e.g., measuring game time hydration status in thousands of athletes prior to head injury). Hydration status was unknown, and factors like helmet function (which is compromised in cold conditions) may hide true differences.
We hypothesized that if a relationship existed, we would be able to observe an increase in concussion frequency during games that took place under extreme conditions. But given the primary playing season (i.e., Fall), very few games were played in environmental extremes. Additionally, the high level of competition likely insured that athletes were well prepared for games in all conditions. In the end, the overall rates of concussions were consistent across game time temperatures, but a link between dehydration and concussion rate may still exist.
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