Study: Single season of high school football can damage athlete's brain

The repeated impacts experienced in one season of playing high school football can do significant damage to an athlete’s brain, according to a recent study published by the Journal of Neurotrauma.

Joseph Maldjian, MD, professor of radiology, chief of the neuroradiology division, and director of the Advanced Neuroscience Imaging Research Lab at UT Southwestern in Dallas, and colleagues studied players who wore custom data-recording helmets during practice and actual games.

“Our findings add to a growing body of literature demonstrating that a single season of contact sports can result in brain changes regardless of clinical findings or concussion diagnosis,” Maldjian said in a prepared statement from UT Southwestern.

Diffusional kurtosis imaging was used to measure water diffusion in the athletes’ cells and identify changes in their neural tissues. White matter abnormalities were also examined.

“Work of this type, combining biomechanics, imaging, and cognitive evaluation is critical to improving our understanding of the effects of subconcussive impacts on the developing brain,” Maldjian said in the UT Southwestern statement. “Using this information, we hope to help keep millions of youth and adolescents safe when engaged in sports activities.”

Wake Forest University, the Children’s National Medical Center at the George Washington University School of Medicine, and the Medical University of South Carolina were also involved in the study.

Other stories covering the impact of sports on the brains of athletes can be read here and here.