As this year’s football season draws closer to its end, professional players will get a chance to rest and recuperate for awhile. Unfortunately, they may not be the same as they were when the season started. A new study shows that repeated blows to the head during a season of contact sports may cause changes in the brain’s white matter that affects cognitive abilities, even if none of the blows resulted in concussions.
Researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine and the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College conducted the study, using a form of MRI to study the differences in brain matter. The number of times the athletes were hit and the magnitude of the hits they sustained correlated with the changes in white matter. There was also a group of contact sport athletes who didn’t do well on tests of learning and memory at the end of the season, and the researchers found that the changes in white matter were greater in that group.
More research will be done to determine the impact of blows to the head during contact sports. Any athlete who plays contact sports and has noticed any behavioral changes should contact a mental health therapist for a sports psychiatry evaluation.