Contact sports hard on the head

© Mike Bain
© Mike Bain

A study in the US has found that a season spent playing contact sports without concussion can still cause measurable brain changes that have been previously association with mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI).

Researchers led by Alexander K. Powers, MD, presented the results of a study to determine the cumulative effects of head impacts as they relate to changes in the brain absent of concussion.

The study Abnormal white matter integrity related to head impact exposure in a season of high school varsity football  looked at 45 players from a local high school football team during the 2012 season, none of whom experienced clinical concussion. Players were instrumented with the Head Impact Telemetry System. Each player received a pre and post-season MRI scans, and total impacts and risk weighted cumulative exposure were computed from the helmet sensor for each player.

The study researchers concluded that based on the findings, a single season of football play can produce MRI measurable brain changes that have been previously association with mTBI — adding to the increasing amounts of literature demonstrating that a season of participation in a contact sport can show changes in the brain in the absence of concussion or clinical findings.

The findings were presented at this week’s 82nd Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) in San Francisco. Sir Bob Geldof spoke at the meeting on Sunday, which ran from April 5 to 9. National Neurosurgery Awareness Week, from April 6 to 12, was also commemorated at the meeting.

Study co-authors are Elizabeth Davenport, MS; Jillian Urban, MS; Christopher Whitlow, MD, PhD; Mark Espeland, PhD; Joseph Maldjian, MD; Youngkyoo Jung, PhD; and Joel Stitzel, PhD.

Attended by neurosurgeons, neurosurgical residents, medical students, neuroscience nurses, clinical specialists, physician assistants, allied health professionals and other medical professionals, the AANS Annual Scientific Meeting is the largest gathering of neurosurgeons in the US, with an emphasis on the field’s latest research and technological advances.

The American Association of Neurological Surgeons is a scientific and educational association with nearly 8,600 members worldwide.

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