Study: Kids’ brains altered after just one season of football

November 1, 2016 / FootballSports Medicine
A new study suggests that sub-concussive blows might be enough to alter the brains of young children who play football.

HeadInjuriesThe study was conducted with the help of researchers at the Wake Forest School of Medicine and published in the medical journal Radiology. The findings raise concerns that even athletes who don’t suffer concussions could experience changes in their brains due to repetitive impacts.

Researchers examined the brains of 25 youth football players in North Carolina, ages 8 to 13. Their brains were examined before and after the football season to identify any changes.

From ABC News:

Using the advanced MRI screening called diffusion tensor imaging, the researchers looked for changes in the brain’s white matter that would indicate a disruption in the brain. The imaging works by looking at how water molecules move in the brain along axons — the nerve fibers that extend out of neurons — and producing a measurement called fractional ansiotropy (FA). Healthy white matter will generally have more regular water movement, resulting in a higher FA score. If the water movement in the brain appears more random, the FA is lower, indicating disruptions in the brain, according to researchers.

The study found that the more a player was exposed to force during the football season, the more likely that person had a lower FA score, which has been associated with brain abnormalities in some studies.

Football helmets with special sensors were used by the athletes to measure the impacts they suffered during the season. Games and practices were taped to verify those impacts.

The study’s authors say additional research is necessary to verify the results. They also want to track the athletes over time to see how their brains respond.

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