Sports dietitian and athletic trainer Theresa Dvorak, MS, RD, CSSD, ATC
DHA Levels and Delayed Concussive Brain Injury Recovery in the Adolescent Athlete
Sports-related mild traumatic brain injury (concussion) among adolescent male and female athletes is a rising medical concern. From 2001 to 2009, emergency department visits involving sports-related traumatic brain injury in youth 5-18 years of age increased by 62%. This is of great concern to society as adolescence is a critical time for brain development. Given this increase in incidence it is imperative that healthcare providers be able to provide information to the patient about how to decrease risk of further brain injury and how to foster healing.
Unfortunately, little is known about ways to decrease severity of a concussion or ways to facilitate healing. However, in animal models it has been shown that diet may play a role, specifically the intake of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These studies have found that increased intake of DHA before and after traumatic brain injury (TBI) has a positive effect on the brain.
To our knowledge there is no published research assessing the intake and blood levels of DHA in an adolescent athlete population. Thus it is the goal of this study to gather needed information regarding this high risk population. This project will aid in the determination of DHA sufficiency s determined by using the Youth/ Adolescent Food Frequency Questionnaire (YAQ) to assess dietary intake and a test of whole blood DHA levels in high school athletes participating in boys’ football and girls’ soccer. Given general population data collected by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey we hypothesize that these youth athletes will have low dietary intake and low whole blood levels of DHA.
Another aim of our study is to determine if there is a correlation between DHA sufficiency and the rate of concussion, time required for return to play, and/or the risk of being diagnosed with another concussion within the same sport season. This study will also provide the necessary data needed to develop future studies of the effects of DHA supplementation on concussion and recovery in the adolescent athlete.