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There have been a lot of talks about the dangers of sports, especially aggressive sports like football and rugby. New study reveals that football can cause brain damage, even if the players do not suffer head injuries.
The new study shows that repeated hits to the head after just one season of playing football can cause damage in the brains of high school athletes who never suffered a concussion.
The study showed that the more often the players were hit, the more evidence they showed abnormal changes in their brain. One of the authors of the study, Dr. Christopher Whitlow, professor at the Radiology Translational Science Institute at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC, explained:
“It’s not the harder the hit, it’s the cumulative exposure to impact.”
The study that shows football can cause brain damage involved 24 young football players (still in high school) between the ages of 16 and 18. None of the football players experienced a head concussion before playing football. During practice and the actual football game, the players wore accelerometers mounted on their helmets, which helped track how hard and how often the players were hit.
Based on this data, the football players were divided in two separate groups: none of the players were considered heavy hitters, while 15 of them were light hitters.
The researchers used an advanced brain imaging technology called “diffusion tensor imaging” and were able to see the changes in the white matter of the football players’ brains.
The brain white matter contains million of nerve fibers which act like communication cables that connect various parts of our brain. The DTI technology can measure the movement of water in the nerve fibers, something known as fractional anisotropy.
In a health brain, water movement is even and has a high level of fractional anisotropy. If there is more water movement in the brain and the FA drops, it means that there are brain abnormalities.
Dr. Whitlow explained:
“Even though this type of impact doesn’t qualify for a diagnosis of concussion because there was no loss of consciousness or specific complaints, it’s very likely that multiple hits are not benign. We can speculate that any amount of brain damage isn’t good, but the risky part is that changes are not likely to be dramatic.”