A new study has showed that the abnormalities in brain structure of young players can occur even if they have played a single season of American football. Researchers say this could happen even without the players suffering a concussion.
Study author Christopher Whitlow said, “This study adds to the growing body of evidence that a season of play in a contact sport can affect the brain.”
Whitlow is an associate professor of Radiology at Wake Forest School of Medicine in the United States.
For the study, the researchers involved 24 high school football players between the age group 16 and 18. All the participating players in the study underwent pre-and post-season evaluation along with diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) of their brain.
DTI, an advanced MRI technique, helps in the identification of micro-structural changes in the brain’s white matter, which is made up of millions of nerve fibres called axons.
Axons act like communication cables that connects various regions of the brain. Diffusion tensor imaging creates a measurement of the water molecules movement along axons. The measurement is known as fractional anisotropy (FA).
“The study uncovered that the young football players experiencing high levels of head impacts have more loss of fractional anisotropy in comparison to the players having lower impact exposure,” Whitlow said while adding, “Similar changes in brain MRI have been earlier linked with mild traumatic brain injury. Even though, it is unclear whether or not these effects will be linked with any negative long-term consequences.”
The findings of the study were presented at the ongoing annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) in Chicago.