Brain trauma widespread in high school football

More than 50 percent of student athletes that play impact sports like football and soccer suffer from neural trauma and altered brain function, even when signs of concussion are not present, according to a series of research studies, Reuters reports in a video report by Ben Gruber.

Video from Reuters

“Everyone knows football is a dangerous sport,” the video opens. Protective gear can’t keep kids who play it from getting broken bones, sprained muscles, and other injuries.

But new research shows that even football and soccer players who don’t suffer from concussions show signs of brain trauma caused by damage not only to neurons but to glial cells and vasculature in the brain.

“We’re seeing changes in brain activity, even without a diagnosed concussion,” Reuters quotes Larry Leverenz, clinical professor of health and kinesiology at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.

“Basically, in football and in women’s soccer, about half the team is experiencing changes [in the brain],” said Eric Nauman, a professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering. “Some of them heal, and some of them don’t by the time they start playing the next season.”

Hits to the head that don’t cause a concussion may be more dangerous than the harder hits, researchers said, because:

  • They occur more frequently
  • They go unnoticed and untreated
  • The damage could result in long-lasting neurological problems

“You’re not going to change the game,” said Dr Leverenz. “You’re not going to get rid of the game, at least. So how can you change the game and keep the spirit of the game there—keep players enjoying, keep fans enjoying the game—but at the same time, be safe?”

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Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more biographical information, see the About page.