Scientists have proved that football can lead to brain changes in the structure of the young players even when there were no registered cases of concussions.
More and more reports and studies have recently been interested in the effects of football and the possible head injuries it entails on the still-forming brains of its youngest players.
As most tests usually target concussion cases and study the effects of such incidents, the recently published research set out to investigate the effects of the sport in the cases of players that did not report noticeable head injuries.
The study was released online in the Radiology journal and was lead by M.D., Ph.D., M.H.A. Cristopher T. Whitlow, chief of neuroradiology and associate professor of the Winston-Salem Wake Forest School of Medicine.
The team of scientists studied the head data of a number of 25 male football players, aged 8 to 13, over the period of a youth football season.
As the USA Football registered a number of about 3 million youth players active in the organized field of tackle football, the researchers set to investigate the possible brain changes registered by youth that could have been caused by general conditions and in the absence of injuries.
The test participants went through a series of multimodal neuroimaging tests both before and after the football season. These included the Head Impact Telemetry System (HITSs) which assessed the cumulative risk of multiple exposures to helmet impacts.
They also included the diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) which is used in order to determine the microstructural changes in the white matter of the brain through a process named fractional anisotropy (FA). The FA should reveal high numbers and a uniform movement in a healthy white matter.
Also, all the participants’ games were recorded so as to confirm and register the number of impacts and their degrees.
Although none of the participating boys exhibited any signs of concussions, the post-season test results revealed brain changes, especially in the FA levels which were shown to have decreased.
The most affected by the brain changes were the players who were the recipients of a higher number of head impacts.
The meaning of the results has led the way to more studies as Dr. Whitow states that there is still more to find out about these brain changes.
Future studies will seek to find out if these modifications are permanent, or if they will resolve by themselves after a period of time. They will also search for functional changes in the brain’s abilities and see if the impacts will actually have consequences in the young players’ long-term health.
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