Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Football Brain Injuries Persist during the Off-Season

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Football Brain Injuries Persist during the Off-Season

Article excerpt

New research into the effects of repeated head impacts on high school football players has shown changes in brain chemistry and metabolism even in players who have not been diagnosed with concussions and suggest the brain may not fully heal during the off-season.

Researchers at Purdue University used a medical-imaging technique called proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H MRS) to study the brains of 25 high school football players and those of non-contact-sports controls before, during, and after the regular season.

"We are seeing damage not just to neurons, but also to the vasculature and glial cells in the brain," says Eric Nauman, a professor of biomedical engineering. "I was particularly disturbed that when you get to the offseason--somewhere between two and five months after the season has ended--the majority of players are still showing that they had not fully recovered."

Findings, which suggest the cumulative effects of injuries pose potential health dangers even for players not diagnosed with concussion, are detailed in five research papers published in the journal Developmental Neuropsychology.

The 1H MRS data provide details about the blood flow, metabolism, and chemistry of neurons and glial cells important for brain function. The data also revealed a "hypermetabolic response" in the brains of football players during the preseason, as though trying to heal connections impaired from the previous season.

"We found that in the preseason for the football players in our study, one part of the brain would be associating with about 100 other regions, which is much higher than the controls," says Thomas Talavage, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering. …

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