A new study finds that young athletes that regularly take hits to the head could suffer brain injury – even if they do not experience a concussion.
Researchers followed nine athletes and six non-athletes for one year. Then, they compared brain images taken before and after the season. Seven of the nine athletes had abnormal brain scans, even though only one of the athletes sustained a concussion. The six other athletes with abnormal brain scans had sustained between 26 and 399 “routine” hits to the head. The post-season scans of those six athletes shared more similarities with the brain of the concussed athlete than with the brains of the non-athletes.
Although the study's authors noted that the initial group was small, and more research is needed, their findings are a red flag potentially serious consequences associated with comparatively mild and routine head injuries suffered by young athletes.
This study is the most recent in a series of scientific studies that focus on traumatic brain injuries. Earlier this year, the N.F.L. announced plans to study brain and spine injuries. The N.F.L. made this decision soon after the release of research linking repeated head injuries with the serious brain disorder chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Among other things, CTE causes severe depression, aggression and loss of impulse control.