BACKGROUND: The suggestion has been made that neurological changes seen in the syndrome of chronic traumatic encephalopathy may be due to exogenous anabolic steroid use rather than traumatic brain injury.
OBJECTIVE: To determine whether administration of anabolic steroids alters the pathophysiology of traumatic brain injury.
METHODS: Sixty adult male Sprague-Dawley rats and a linear acceleration model of traumatic brain injury were used. Experimental groups were (1) preinjury anabolic steroids, (2) preinjury placebo carrier, (3) anabolic steroids without injury, (4) no steroids and no injury, (5) postinjury placebo carrier, and (6) postinjury anabolic steroids. Following a 30-day recovery, rats were euthanized, and brainstem white matter tracts underwent fluorescent immunohistochemical processing and labeling of β-amyloid precursor protein (APP), a marker of axonal injury. Digital imaging and statistical analyses were used to determine whether anabolic steroid administration resulted in a significant change in the number of injured axons.
RESULTS: There was no statistically significant difference in number of APP-positive axons by immunohistochemical analysis between respective anabolic steroid and placebo groups.
CONCLUSION: Using a standard acceleration-deceleration model of mild traumatic brain injury, we have shown successful visualization of traumatically injured axons with antibody staining of APP. Our results indicate no statistically significant effect of anabolic steroids on the number of APP-positive axons. With the use of this model, and within its limitations, we see no adverse effect or causative role of anabolic steroid administration on the brain following mild traumatic brain injury using APP counts as a marker for anatomic injury.