A one-time blood transfusion in 1908 may be the secret to recovering from a concussion, say athletes and scientists who participated in a small study at Boston University. But, in the absence of evidence of a science-based breakthrough, some athletes doubt a link exists.
Despite a National Institutes of Health report from the same year that put neurobiology at the top of the public health agenda, teams still provide athletes with blood without training, a lot of them at the Olympic Games.
During the past year, the Framingham Heart Study, a “longitudinal investigation” of cardiovascular health, published a study in Mayo Clinic Proceedings that suggested a blood transfusion “was associated with decreases in gray matter volumes and cognitive changes.”
“Permissible” blood transfusions are a concern as parts of the brain deteriorate over the years because people cannot recover from damage in healthy times. This came about in 1908, when the Kiefer brothers, brothers Roger and Alexander, along with hockey’s Maripier Morin, earned gold medals for Canada at the Olympics by defeating Germany. During the game, the Kiefer brothers went to their dressing room and signed a blood donation sheet that said they were donating blood for organ donation purposes.
Afterward, the team developed the “studying ways to win” program for the Olympics.
But no studies link blood transfusions with brain injury. And those who used blood during a concussion would almost certainly need an MRI to check for long-term effects.