Active or recently retired National Football League (NFL) players with a history of concussion have higher levels of an inflammatory marker in the brain compared with nonplayers, although there are no significant differences in cognition or widespread differences in white matter integrity, a new study has found.
The players had significantly increased expression of the translocator protein 18kDa (TSPO) in various brain regions on positron emission tomography (PET). Normally expressed at low levels in brain tissue, TSPO is increased in expression by activated microglia. Microglia are resident immune cells of the central nervous system.
“TSPO PET enables us to measure the activity of microglia, which are involved in neuroinflammation, directly in the brains of affected patients,” Martin G. Pomper, MD, PhD, Henry N. Wagner Jr. Professor of Radiology, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, told Medscape Medical News.