A two-year study involving 50 college football players and 25 young men who never played the sport revealed differences among the football players in a part of the brain critical to memory,
Reuters reported the results of the study done at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research in Tulsa, Oklahoma. between 2011 and 2013. The study looked at 25 players with a history of concussions in football, 25 players with no concussion history and 25 young men of similar age who never played.
The results showed players with a history of concussions had smaller smaller hippocampuses, a portion of the brain involved in memory. The football players had hippocampuses that were between 17 and 26 percent smaller than non-football players and the players with concussion history had smaller hippocampuses than those with no concussion history.
“Boys hear about the long-term effect on guys when they’re retired from football, but this shows that 20-year-olds might be having some kind of effect,” said Patrick Bellgowan, the study’s senior author told Reuters.
Researchers took magnetic resonance imaging of the participants to measure regions of the brains and also had the football players complete other computerized tests measuring cognitive abilities. The study also found the players who had the longest history in the sport had the smallest hippocampuses.
Dr. Jeffrey Bazarian from the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, New York, was not involved in the study but commented on the findings for the Reuters story.
“People try to understand why some NFL players have what looks like Alzheimer’s in their forties,” Bazarian said. “How did they get there? I think this study points out the early stages of that.”
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