"We want to increase the number of football players in the study and also include soccer to study athletes who don't wear head protection," Nauman said. "We also want to include girls to see whether they are affected differently than boys."
The research findings represent a dilemma because they suggest athletes may suffer a form of injury that is difficult to diagnose.
"This might be especially important in young people because the brain is still developing, so even though subtle unexpressed damage doesn't manifest as a concussion it could affect the brain later in life," Gilger said.
Changes were seen in regions of the brain that have been associated with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive degenerative disease found in people who suffer numerous concussions and other forms of head injury.
"This is still circumstantial evidence, but it suggests that whether you are concussed or not your brain is changing as a result of all these hits, and the regions most affected are the ones that exhibit CTE," Nauman said.
Players in the study received from 200 to nearly 1,900 hits to the head in a single season, with two players exceeding 1,800 hits. Helmet-sensor data indicated impact forces to the head ranged from 20 Gs to more than 100 Gs.
"The worst hit we've seen was almost 300 Gs," Nauman said.
A soccer player "heading" a ball experiences an impact of about 20 Gs.
Findings could aid efforts to develop more sensitive and accurate methods to detect cognitive impairment and concussions; more accurately characterize and model cognitive deficits that result from head impacts; determine the cellular basis for cognitive deficits after a single impact or repeated impacts; and develop new interventions to reduce the risk and effects of head impacts.
"Now that we know there is definitely a buildup of damage before the concussion occurs, ultimately, there is hope
|Contact: Emil Venere|