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Risking Brain Function for Contact Sports

4 years ago45 views

GeoBeats

Geo Beats

A new study shows even small bumps during contact sports can contribute to poor memory and cognition with possible long-term consequences.

In sports, people normally only associate brain trauma with severe hits leading to things like concussions and broken bones. However, a new study shows even small bumps during contact sports can contribute to poor memory and cognition with possible long-term consequences.

Dartmouth College researchers tested brain performance and took MRI scans of 80 varsity ice hockey and football players at the season’s start. For comparison, they tested and scanned 79 athletes from non-contact sports like track and swimming.

The players from contact sports wore helmets with sensors tracking the frequency and force of hits during the season.

At season’s end, everyone was re-tested and re-scanned. Players who took the most hits had the most problems remembering and learning. Their MRI scans confirmed the most severe changes were in the brain’s white matter where critical communication pathways exist.

Neurosurgery professor Dr. Douglas Smith pointed out many sports professionals go on to successful endeavors requiring good brain function. However, he also said that’s not the case with everyone and some may have lifelong consequences after only one or two hits.

As Smith advises, “People have to decide for themselves if they want to put their kids’ brains at risk for a game. That’s a tough decision in our society where a lot of heroes are athletes.”

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