Brain changes from accumulative impact research continues. This latest study looks at 25 players between the ages of eight and thirteen. The results are significant and signal the need for larger-scale research on brain changes with non-concussive impact.
Non-Concussive Football Triggers Brain Changes in Young Players
Research is mounting that concussions have devastating impacts on professional football players in the NFL—and the symptoms don’t happen overnight. The bad effects from concussions can continue years after the trauma, and brain experts say that damage to delicate neurons can also accumulate over time, even with repeated head injuries that don’t reach the level of concussion.
That’s why Dr. Christopher Whitlow, chief of neuroradiology at Wake Forest School of Medicine, and his colleagues investigated brain changes in young players. Whitlow wanted to better understand how non-concussive trauma to the head, the kind caused by normal football play, affects the brain. In a study published in the journal Radiology, his team reports that although these changes are subtle, they are visible in the brains of young players.
The study involved 25 boys between ages eight and 13 years who played a single season of football. The players agreed to wear special helmets that tracked impacts to the head and had MRIs done at the beginning and end of the season to note any differences resulting from their season of play.
Whitlow found that the more impacts a player had to the head, the more changes in a part of the brain called white matter, which is made up of insulated neurons that form the basis of communication between different parts of the brain. Such changes are concerning since the white matter of the brain is still developing and evolving during this age, and changes to its normal trajectory might have lasting effects on many aspects of brain function, from cognition to personality to behavior.
The differences are so subtle that if a brain expert were to look at the MRIs of the players after the season ended, they would not necessarily identify them as having experienced brain trauma. The changes are only evident when compared to the original brain scans. Read more…
Studies are moving in the right direction for illuminating brain changes due to accumulative impact. Let’s take it to the next level so we can make the right decisions to protect the brain health of our athletes.