DHA provided before traumatic brain injury may offer neurological protection


Concussion, a type of traumatic brain injury which results from either direct or indirect impact to the head, manifests as short-term impairment in neurological function. Athletes with a previous concussion are at a greater risk of future concussions and repetitive concussions may increase the likelihood of developing long-term neurological complications. Besides, sub-concussive impact associated with sport participation may also have important implications for long-term brain health, and the accumulation of concussive and sub-concussive impacts may lead to long-term neurological impairment and an increased risk of developing neurodegenerative disorders.

Several studies have demonstrated the neuroprotective effect of nutritional supplementation in the treatment of traumatic brain injury. But, given that many concussions and sub-concussive impacts are not reported (and, therefore, are not treated), protection prior to impact is required. In this regard, protective equipment (helmets, for example) does not reduce the incidence and severity of concussion in sport; it is therefore necessary to find the way to prevent and/or reduce the harmful effects of sports-related concussion and sub-concussive impacts.

Nutritional supplementation is a potential strategy to achieve it. In contrast to pharmaceutical treatment, nutrients (omega-3 fatty acids and creatine) and nutraceuticals (curcumin) have the potential to act on multiple mechanisms that occur after concussive and sub-concussive impacts.

A consequence of traumatic brain injury is that there is a reduction in the quantity of neuronal DHA following injury. Further, it has been observed that deficiency of brain DHA content induced by dietary restriction heightens the response to traumatic brain injury. Recently published results from a study examining the effects of DHA supplementation on a biomarker of head trauma in American Football athletes have concluded that DHA attenuated damage. Findings from this study, the first large-scale study examining potential prophylactic use of DHA in American football athletes suggest a neuroprotective effect of DHA supplementation.

DHA, when provided before traumatic brain injury, may offer neurological protection.


Oliver JM, Anzalone AJ, Turner SM. Protection Before Impact: the Potential Neuroprotective Role of Nutritional Supplementation in Sports-Related Head Trauma. Sports Med. 2018;48(Suppl 1):39-52.

Oliver JM, Jones MT, Kirk KM, Gable DA, Repshas JT, Johnson TA, et al. Effect of Docosahexaenoic Acid on a Biomarker of Head Trauma in American Football. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2016;48(6):974-82.



DHA may facilitate healing after brain trauma

A traumatic brain injury is a brain injury caused by an external physical force. The resulting damage can be confined to one area of the brain or involve more than one area, and de[...]