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BCAA supplementation may speed up concussion recovery

Article-BCAA supplementation may speed up concussion recovery

© iStock/SDI Productions BCAA supplementation may speed up concussion recovery
Branched chain amino acid (BCAA) supplementation may support faster recovery among young people with concussion, according to US researchers who say their trial is the first of its kind.

The study, published last month in the Journal of Neurotrauma, demonstrated a significant reduction in total symptom score and faster return to physical activity among adolescents and young adults with concussion who received BCAA supplementation.

The researchers, from the Minds Matter Concussion Frontier Program at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said: “This study provides the first demonstration of efficacy, as well as safety and tolerability of BCAAs in concussed adolescents and young adults – specifically, a dose-response effect in reducing concussion symptoms and return to baseline physical activity, in those treated with higher total doses of BCAAs.” 

Significant reduction in concussion symptom score and return to physical activity

Concussion is a common injury in the adolescent and young adult populations. However, while BCAA supplementation has demonstrated improvements in neurocognitive and sleep function in pre-clinical animal models of mild-to-moderate traumatic brain injury, no research has evaluated the efficacy of BCAAs in concussed adolescents and young adults.

The goal of the latest study was to determine the efficacy, tolerability, and safety of varied doses of oral BCAA supplementation.

The pilot, double-blind, randomised controlled trial involved participants aged between 11 and 34 years. They were randomised to one of five study arms (placebo and 15 g, 30 g, 45 g, or 54 g BCAA treatment daily) and followed for 21 days after enrolment.

Outcome measures included daily computerised neurocognitive tests to assess processing speed – the primary outcome – as well as attention, visual learning, and working memory; symptom score; physical and cognitive activity; sleep/wake alterations; treatment compliance; and adverse events.

Of 42 participants, 38 provided analysable data. The researchers found no difference in processing speed between the arm; however, there was a significant reduction in total symptom score and return to physical activity. There were no serious adverse events.

BCAA supplementation: Larger trials needed to confirm concussion efficacy

The researchers admitted that the study was limited by slow enrolment, small sample size, and missing data. They called for larger trials to confirm their results.

“These findings provide important preliminary data to inform a larger trial of BCAA therapy to expedite concussion recovery,” they concluded.

However, David L Brody, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Neurotrauma, offered his congratulations to the authors.

He added: “This is an intriguing study that should inspire further research in the field. Many of our patients are interested in the topic of whether there are dietary supplements that may help recovery from concussion, and studies like this one take us closer to answers.”