One Season of Contact Sports Can Cause Observable Brain Damage

Source: Justin Russell

Source: Justin Russell

With school only a few weeks away, student athletes are already heading into training for the fall season. With the widespread coverage of the NFL’s concussion rates and litigation, many parents are already concerned about the safety of their young football players. A new study offers an even more troublesome warning.

According to the study published in this month’s Journal of Neurotrauma, a single season of football or another similarly high contact sport causes significant brain damage even when players do not suffer concussions or show identifiable signs of concussion.

The researchers equipped 45 players from a high school football team with helmet sensors which measured the levels of impact players are subjected to. The players wee then followed throughout the 2012 playing season. The players were also given MRI scans at the beginning and end of the season. The researchers then used a system known as the Head Impact Telemetry System (HITS) to calculate a risk weighted cumulative exposure (RWE) for each player.

The results found white matter changes and abnormalities at the conclusion of the season, and these changes directly correlated with the number and strength of impacts recorded by the helmet sensors. Interestingly, despite the presence of white matter changes none of the players involved n the study were diagnosed with clinical concussions or bran injuries.

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