Football players with head injuries have smaller brain volumes
Football players who have had head injuries and stay in the game a long time are more likely to have smaller hippocampal volumes than players who have played for fewer years.
The hippocampus is a brain region involved in regulating emotion and forming, storing and processing memory. And it is particularly vulnerable to moderate and severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). Studies are now showing that it might also be sensitive to mild TBI.
For this study, published in JAMA, researchers assessed 25 college football players with a history of clinically diagnosed concussion. They were compared to 25 college football players without a concussion history and 25 non-football player controls. Researchers measured brain volume using high-resolution anatomic magnetic resonance (MRI). The athletes also had to take a computerized cognitive test related to concussion.
Results showed that both groups of football players had smaller hippocampal volumes than healthy participants who did not play football. Football players with a history of concussion had smaller hippocampal volumes than players who had not had a concussion, and players who had played for more years had slower reaction times on cognitive tests and smaller hippocampal volumes, compared to players who had fewer years of experience.
The researchers conceded that they were unable to determine the specific mechanisms for why this happens in the brain.
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