New Study Shows Evidence of Brain Injuries in Young Football Players

Handheld Device Could Quickly Diagnose Concussions in Young Athletes

A new study shows evidence of brain injuries in football players at a surprisingly young age. The study by Orlando Health in collaboration with the Concussion Neuroimaging Consortium finds evidence of lasting effects from head injuries at a much younger age than expected. The study essentially tested biomarkers in the blood called microRNAs and found that college football players had elevated levels of these biomarkers that indicate concussions before the season even started.

What the Study Found

Linda Papa, the study’s lead author and emergency medicine physician at Orlando Health, said she was shocked to see that the biomarkers were high even before the players were involved in one hit or tackle for the season. This suggests that the effects of past head injuries continue to persist over time, she said. Researchers also conducted cognitive tests with each study participant before and after the season and found that those who had balance and memory issues had higher levels of the biomarkers.

Some of these players have never been diagnosed with a concussion. What this means is that they suffered head injuries that were not severe enough to be clinically diagnosed. But, even those injuries left them with brain damage. These smaller injuries are known as “subconcussive injuries.” Researchers believe these biomarkers can potentially help identify those less-severe head injuries so players can get the treatment and care they need. This study shows how critical it can be to monitor players’ brain health and understand how continuous hits can lead to chronic issues.

Football and CTE

A number of studies have indisputably shown that repeated blows to the head and repeated concussions, which many professional football players suffer, leads to a condition called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). Potential signs of CTE include problems with thinking and memory, personality changes and behavioral changes including aggression and depression.

People may not experience potential signs of CTE until years or decades after brain injuries occur. A definitive diagnosis of CTE can only be made after death. Several high profile former football players who behaved erratically in the latter part of their lives or died tragically by suicide have been diagnosed with CTE.

Our traumatic brain injury attorneys hope these types of studies and findings help advance safety and better medical care for young football players who are exposing themselves to significant risk for the love of the game. Coaches, institutions and sports leagues have a responsibility to safeguard their players’ health above everything else.



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