New research details the impact of youth football on the brain


Nov. 27 (UPI) – A single season on the grid is enough to cause measurable changes in the brains of some school-age soccer players.

After a year playing soccer, the researchers found student athletes with a history of concussion and high-impact exposure experience switched to their network by default, a more active neural network during the break of vigil. The decrease in DMN connectivity has been badociated with traumatic brain injuries and mental disorders.

"The DMN exists in the deep gray matter areas of the brain," Elizabeth M. Davenport, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center's O & # 39; Donnell Brain Institute, said in a statement of the press "It includes structures that activate when we are awake and participate in the introspection or the processing of emotions, important activities for the health of the brain".

The scientists also badyzed the changes of the DMN among football players without a history of concussion.

"During a football season, players are exposed to numerous impacts on the head, the vast majority of which do not concussion," said Gowtham Krishnan Murugesan, a Ph.D. student in biomedical engineering at UT Southwestern. "This work adds to a growing body of literature that indicates that subcutaneous impacts of the head can have an effect on the brain." This is an area little studied in youth and high school.

The researchers used accelerometers inside the helmets. as Head Impact Telemetry System, or HITS – to monitor the impacts experienced by 26 young soccer players between the ages of 9 and 13.

After one monitoring season, players were divided into two groups based on exposure to concussion. In addition to the high and low exposure groups, the researchers included a non-contact peer control group. Students with a prior history of concussions were excluded from the badysis.

Researchers used functional resting MRI images captured before and after the season to measure changes in players' DMN activity. Machine learning helped scientists identify the changes.

"Machine learning has a lot to add to our research because it gives us a new perspective and the ability to badyze complex relationships within the data," said Murugesan. "Our results suggest an increase in functional change in the brain with greater exposure to impact on the head."

In a second study, researchers badyzed the neural impacts of soccer on high school players, including players who had suffered at least one concussion during the previous season. The scientists used magnetoencephalography scans to badyze the changes between the eight brain regions of the DMN.

Players with a history of concussions experienced a decrease in DMN activity during the following season, while players without concussions showed an increase in activity over the course of the season.

The findings suggest that the impacts of concussion can have a significant long-term impact on brain development.

"The brain's default mode network changes differently as a result of a previous concussion," said Davenport. "The previous concussion seems to stimulate the brain for additional changes." The history of concussion may be affecting the brain's ability to compensate for subset impacts.

Scientists presented the results of both studies Monday at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, held this week in Chicago.

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