A new study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America has revealed that young athletes who suffered concussion might experience reduced flow of blood in their brain for as many as eight days even after rapid clinical recovery.

Experts used an advanced version of MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to examine college and high school football players who have suffered a concussion and compared their data to another assemblage of MRI results obtained from athletes who didn’t experience any concussion.

The form of MRI researchers used for this purpose is called ASL MRI or arterial spin labeling MRI. This special version of the diagnostic test was used for evaluating blood flow changes in the brains of the athletes. The evaluation showed that blood flow changed significantly after 8 days.

Study coauthor Dr. Michael McCrea explained that the results showed that the recovery has extended beyond the manifestation of clinical concussion symptoms. He added that this finding makes it clear that there’s need for more discussion about the ailing athlete’s readiness for returning to action, where he or she is certain to sustain further head impacts.

During the course of the study, McCrea and colleagues also came to know that as per sports medicine, the average time an athlete takes for getting back on the field after suffering a concussion is around 15 days. These extra days are essential as they will give the injured athlete adequate rest and enough time to recover clinically. McCrea believes that the additional days also provide athletes with ample opportunity to recover psychologically.

The study conducted by McCrea and team was a small-scale case-control study. It had only 27 individuals as participants. Each of those participants had to undergo an MRI scan within 24 hours of suffering the injury, and around 30 to 35% previously suffered a concussion.

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The study authors said that the findings presented at Radiology Society of North America’s meeting should be considered preliminary till the time they get published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The study’s lead author Dr. Yang Wang said that at this moment he and his colleagues don’t have enough data for advising parents and doctors about the right thing to do. According to Wang, although the findings put forward by the study are interesting, they mark only the first step.