How Playing Football Affects Young Brains
We’re learning more and more about the short- and long-term effects of concussions—especially repeated concussions—and the importance of preventing them. But a new study shows that playing as little as one season of football can affect the brains of children and adolescents—even without a diagnosis of concussion.
The study involved 25 male football players between the ages of eight and 13. Before, and then again after, the season, study participants underwent a type of brain MRI called diffusion tensor imaging, which can detect small changes in the brain. Researchers used special software to measure the frequency and severity of impacts involving the head over the course of a season. They attended every game and practice over the course of the study to ensure the accuracy of the data.
According to researchers, higher levels of small changes in brain structure occurred in players who experienced more head impact during the season, even though none of the players were diagnosed with a concussion. The type of changes that occurred are similar to those that are seen with mild TBI (traumatic brain injury). It is not known at this time if these changes are associated with functional changes in the brain or long-term abnormalities.
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