Concussions, Exercise, Buffalo Concussion Treadmill Test, Grant Proposal, NFL Concussion Research


Exercise Science


Kimbo Yee


This is the abstract for a grant proposal for the following study following the NFL Concussion Grant Guidelines.

Concussions are an issue in many sports at both the amateur and professional level. In 2015, 43.5% of athletes across all age groups and sexes that sustained a concussion returned to sport too soon1. In the past, patients with a concussion were told to restrict physical and cognitive activities until they are asymptomatic2. Recently, research about concussion recovery has shown that a rest period beyond 1-2 days’ post-concussion can be more detrimental to recovery than beneficial3.

The Buffalo Concussion Treadmill Test (BCTT) has been used to study the effects of exercise on individuals with post-concussion syndrome3. However, little research using the BCTT or other methods has examined the effect of exercise on recovery from acute concussions. The BCTT is the only method currently available to assess concussion severity, determine exercise tolerance, and predict when an athlete may safely return to play3.

In addition to human studies, animal models have researched the effect of voluntary exercise on markers of brain health and recovery. These include cerebral blood flow (CBF)3 blood levels of CO23, adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH)4, and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)4,5. When a concussion occurs, blood levels of these hormones decrease, a severe issue in the brain healing process.

This study will examine NCAA Division II varsity and club sport athletes in the acute stages of concussion recovery at a university in the Midwestern United States. Levels of CO2, ACTH, and BDNF in the blood will be measured, as will CBF. The BCTT will initially be used to identify exercise tolerance and to develop an individualized exercise recovery protocol. Athletes will follow up before returning to contact practice to do the BCTT protocol again to evaluate if they have recovered. The goal of this study is to determine if voluntary exercise is more effective than resting for returning athletes to play during the acute stages of a concussion.