Magazine article Science News

Football Linked to Brain Changes: College Players Have Smaller Hippocampi Than Nonplayers

Magazine article Science News

Football Linked to Brain Changes: College Players Have Smaller Hippocampi Than Nonplayers

Article excerpt

A college football player who has been diagnosed with a concussion is likely to have a smaller hippocampus, the memory center of the brain, than a player who hasn't been so diagnosed, a new study finds. And regardless of whether they've had concussions, players have smaller hippocampi than men their age who don't play football and who have no history of brain trauma, the study suggests.

"This is one of the first papers to draw a direct link from concussion to specific tissue changes," says Dennis Molfese, a neuropsychologist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Sports-related trauma studies have focused on the hippocampus because some memory deficits are linked to head injuries. But much of that work has investigated people who were middle-aged or older, says Patrick Bellgowan, an experimental psychologist at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research in Tulsa, Okla., and the University of Tulsa.

He and his colleagues measured the hippocampus size of 50 Division I college football players and 25 male volunteers of similar age who don't play football or soccer. MRI scans revealed that 25 players with previous concussions had hippocampi that averaged just three-quarters the size of those of men who hadn't played football or soccer. The hippocampi in the 25 football players who hadn't suffered a concussion were about five-sixths as large as in the control group, the researchers report in the May 14 JAMA. …

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