Even without concussions, football may change brain
A new study has found that playing football for one season may be enough to cause signs of mild traumatic brain injury, even if a player hasn't suffered any concussions.
Scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina studied 24 football players between ages 16 and 18. The players underwent brain scans both at the start and the end of the football season.
The researchers found that at the end of the season, the football players had slight changes in their white matter--the part of the brain responsible for communication. In addition, the players who experienced more frequent and more severe hits were more likely to experience such changes, the researchers said.
The study's findings, presented to the Radiological Society of North America, suggest that just one season of football may be enough to cause abnormal brain changes, which researchers said were similar to the effects of traumatic brain injury. The scientists said that the findings are of particular concern for young people who play contact sports, as head impacts may affect the development of their brains.
The researchers said they next plan to study the age at which young brains are most vulnerable, as part of an effort to make football and other contact sports safer.