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Research into Youth Contact Sports Finds Brain Changes After Just One Season of Play

Research into Youth Contact Sports Finds Brain Changes After Just One Season of Play

Researchers have joined together in recent years to find more information about the short- and long-term effects youth contact sports have on the brain.

Most recently, a group of researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center have been analyzing the experiences of 24 North Carolina football players to find that in just one season of play, players experienced changes in brain health.

The researchers arrived at their findings using sensors wired into the players’ helmets.

The sensors recorded "exactly how many and what types of blows to the head a given player had over the course of a season, as well as how forceful they were. Data from the helmets were uploaded to a computer for analysis," said the Los Angeles Times.

Even in a season where not a single player suffered from a concussion, the researchers’ analysis still gave reason to be concerned.

"The scans showed that the condition of the brain’s white matter was most affected in players whose helmets had recorded the most linear acceleration—the kind of direct frontal hit a receiver might get when returning a kick, or that a lineman might sustain repeatedly when lunging forward on every play," the LA Times said.

The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center researchers note they will have to continue analyzing the players after the season ends before a definitive conclusion can be made, but they aren’t the only ones determined to find answers.

In April of this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced it was stepping in to find answers about the safety of youth and high school football. Specifically, the CDC said it would be using research to determine the appropriate age for youth to begin engaging in tackle football. 

Last year, a study from the Children's National Health System found that the effects of head trauma that stem from contact sports can have lasting effects on a given student’s academic achievement.

Concussion sufferers were found to have trouble focusing, finishing tasks and were likely to feel tried throughout the school day.

The study was a push for researchers to determine whether or not contact sports negatively impact a student’s academic achievement and thus their future after school.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor


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