A new study on brain injuries and football reveal that even one season of youth football can result in brain damage.
Brain injuries and football reveal that even one season of youth football can result in brain damage.
Gowtham Krishnan Murugesan, M.S., a research assistant at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, likened the process to pruning a tree to ensure its health.
“Pruning is an essential part of brain development. By getting rid of the synapses that are no longer used, the brain becomes more efficient with aging", Murugesan said. The study looked at 60 youth and high school football players with no history of concussions. Researchers outfitted the players with helmets featuring sensors to detect the magnitude, location and direction of impacts; to the head.
"This research demonstrates that playing a season of contact sports may affect normal gray matter pruning in high school and youth football players."
Athletes who began playing tackle football before the age of 12 had more behavioral and cognitive problems later in life than those who started playing after they turned 12.
Credit: Kike Calvo/Associated Press for National Football League
“The brain is going through this incredible time of growth between the years of 10 and 12, and if you subject that developing brain to repetitive head impacts, it may cause problems later in life,” Robert Stern, one of the authors of the study, said of the findings.
The N.F.L., which long denied that there was any link between the game and brain damage, has in recent years been promoting what it considers safer tackling techniques aimed at reducing head-to-head collisions.
Even more recently, the league has been promoting flag football as an even safer alternative. However even the lower impact of flag football can cause concussions and putting the child's brain at risk.