Sports-Related Brain Injury News

NBC News reports that young athletes playing contact sports may experience learning and memory deficits as well as brain changes even when jolts to the head don’t trigger a concussion, a study shows. It’s unclear whether the damage is long-term, but neurologists say the findings give an “important” new understanding of the risks related brain injury some young players face.

After a single season of football or hockey, players who experienced the most hits to the head or body appeared to have developed problems with memory and cognition, according to the study published online Wednesday in Neurology. For comparison, the researchers ran the same tests on 79 athletes who competed in non-contact sports, such as swimming, track and crew.

While the brain may heal, it may still show signs of wear and tear, Smith said. “If your skin gets scratched and heals with a scar, that’s not a problem,” he explained. “If you get the equivalent scar in the brain, that is a problem.”

Still, Smith doesn’t want people to panic.

“The bottom line is that families may need to have a dinner conversation,” Smith said. 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.”