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Kids Who Get Hit In The Head Playing Football Show Brain Changes

With preseason football training on the horizon, a new study shows that head impacts experienced during practice are associated with changes in brain imaging of young players over multiple seasons.

The research, conducted by scientists at Wake Forest School of Medicine and the University of Texas Southwestern, is published in the June 15 issue of the Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics.

"Although we need more studies to fully understand what the measured changes mean, from a public health perspective, it is motivation to further reduce head impact drills used during practice in youth football," said the study's corresponding author Jill Urban, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Wake Forest School of Medicine.

The purpose of the study was to examine changes in head impact exposure (HIE) pre- and post-season in a group of 47 athletes who participated in youth football for two or more consecutive years between 2012 and 2017. None of the 47 youth athletes sustained a clinically diagnosed concussion during the study period.

A group of 16 youth athletes who participated in non-contact sports, such as swimming, tennis and track, served as the control group.

Pre- and post-season MRIs were completed for both groups of study participants using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), a type of neuroimaging that can be used to assess the integrity of the brain's white matter, indicating possible sites of injury.

In addition, the research team gathered biomechanical data of linear and rotational head accelerations of head impacts from the football group during all practice and games via the Riddell Head Impact Telemetry System in the helmets. That information was transmitted in real time to a sideline data collection field unit for later analysis.

In 19 of the 47 youth football athletes, brain images were obtained pre- and post-season for two consecutive football seasons. Using data from the DTIs and the head impact telemetry system, the researchers found variations in head impact exposures (i.e., the number and severity of head impacts measured) from year-to-year and between athletes. For example, in an examination of data from three consecutive seasons, some youths experienced more impacts in their second year of play than in their first, while other youths experienced fewer impacts in later years of play.

"We observed variability in the amount and direction of imaging changes in the brain related to the amount of exposure that the players experienced on the field," Urban said. "If we can take efforts to reduce that exposure on-field, we can potentially mitigate changes in brain imaging.

"Our findings further support ongoing efforts to reduce the number of head impacts in football practices. In an upcoming study, we plan to engage stakeholders in the youth football community to develop and test practical solutions informed by the data we collect on the field to reduce head impacts in practice."

The study was supported by three grants from the National Institutes of Health, namely National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke grants R01NS094410 and R01NS082453, and National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences grant KL2TR001421.

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Previously in brain injuries:
* Bob Probert's Broken Brain.

* NFL Players Killing Themselves Because They Miss Football So Much.

* The College Football Report: Dementia Pugilistica.

* Blackhawks Playing Head Games.

* Jay Cutler Should Consider Retiring.

* Dislike: Friday Night Tykes.

* Hurt And Be Hurt: The Lessons Of Youth Sports.

* Chicago Soccer Player Patrick Grange Had CTE.

* Sony Softened Concussion To Placate NFL.

* Ultra-Realistic Madden To Simulate Game's Debilitating Concussions.

* Dear Football: I'm Breaking Up With You.

* Dead College Football Player's Brain Leaves Clues Of Concussions' Toll On Brain.

* More Bad Concussion News For Young Football Players.

* NFL Tried To Fix Concussion Study.

* The Week In Concussions: Another Enforcer Down.

* Teen Concussion Rate Rising Significantly.

* Conflict Of Interest For NFL Doctors To Report To Teams: Harvard Study.

* U.S. Supreme Court Ends Fight Over $1 Billion NFL Concussion Deal.

* U.S. High School Soccer Concussions On The Rise.

* Youth Football Finally Listening To Coach Coffman.

* Many Kids Still Don't Report Concussion Symptoms. How Can We Change That?

* Brain Damage In Former Players Fuels Soccer 'Heading' Fears.

* Canadian Youth Hockey Injuries Cut In Half After National Policy Change.

* More Teen Knowledge About Concussion May Not Increase Reporting.

* High School Boys Fear Looking 'Weak' If They Report Concussions.

* Pro Flag Football Is Now A Thing - Starring Former NFL Players!

* Nearly All Donated NFL Brains Found To Have CTE.

* Female Athletes Are Closing The Gender Gap When It Comes To Concussions.

* Whoa. Perhaps The Smartest Player In NFL History - He's In Math PhD Program At MIT - Assesses Situation And Decides To Save His Brain.

* Study: CTE Affects Football Players At All Levels.

* Dan Jiggetts Is Right About CTE.

* Letting Our Boys Onto The Football Field Is A Losing Play.

* Tackle Rings?

* CTE Season Preview.

* The CTE Diaries: The Life And Death Of A High School Football Player Killed By Concussions.

* Study: Youth Football Linked To Adult Problems.

* Can Weed Save Football?

* NHL In Chintzy Tentative Concussion Settlement: Not Our Fault.

* The NHL's Deadly Denial.

* Could Helmetless Tackling Training Reduce Football Head Injuries?

* The Unique Concussions Of Female Athletes.

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Plus:

Former NHL Goalie Tim Thomas Details Brain Damage.

"Former NHL goaltender Tim Thomas says he has experienced significant brain damage from concussions during his playing career. Thomas says he still struggles to organize his thoughts."

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Posted on Oct 11, 2021