Diffusion tensor imaging in sport-related concussion: a systematic review using an a priori quality rating system

Briana Lees, Nicola E. Earls, Susanne Meares, Jenny Batchelor, Vincent Oxenham, Caroline D. Rae, Lauriane Jugé, Lucette A. Cysique*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


    Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) of brain white matter (WM) may be useful for characterizing the nature and degree of brain injury after sport-related concussion (SRC) and assist in establishing objective diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers. This study aimed to conduct a systematic review using an a priori quality rating strategy to determine the most consistent DTI-WM changes post-SRC. Articles published in English (until June 2020) were retrieved by standard research engine and gray literature searches (N = 4932), using PRISMA guidelines. Eligible studies were non-interventional naturalistic original studies that conducted DTI within 6 months of SRC in current athletes from all levels of play, types of sports, and sex. A total of 29 articles were included in the review, and after quality appraisal by two raters, data from 10 studies were extracted after being identified as high quality. High-quality studies showed widespread moderate-to-large WM differences when SRC samples were compared to controls during the acute to early chronic stage (days to weeks) post-SRC, including both increased and decreased fractional anisotropy and axial diffusivity and decreased mean diffusivity and radial diffusivity. WM differences remained stable in the chronic stage (2–6 months post-SRC). DTI metrics were commonly associated with SRC symptom severity, although standardized SRC diagnostics would improve future research. This indicates that microstructural recovery is often incomplete at return to play and may lag behind clinically assessed recovery measures. Future work should explore interindividual trajectories to improve understanding of the heterogeneous and dynamic WM patterns post-SRC
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3032-3046
    Number of pages15
    JournalJournal of Neurotrauma
    Issue number22
    Early online date26 Aug 2021
    Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2021


    • diffusion tensor imaging
    • quality rating
    • sports-related concussion
    • systematic review


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