Research in tackle football finds no connection between brain function and head impacts

A study led by pediatric sports neurologist focuses on short and long term effects of head impacts on youth football players. According to reports, this has been one of the reasons for declining participation of football players.

The impulse of the studies were drawn because of the fact, that increasing number of parents, medical providers and football players are showing concern over the youth sports participation. Present research in the area has shown a significant connection between sub-concussive head impacts and neurocognitive function. Moreover, experts believe that these studies have been inconclusive and retrospective.

The latest study directed by Sean Rose of the Complex Concussion Clinic at Nationwide Children’s Hospital tracked real time athletes in order to examine pre-participation cognitive ability.  For the study, the researchers followed more than 150 youth tackle football players aged between 9 to 18.

The study results were assessed on the basis of measure outcomes such as Symptoms assessment, Balance testing, Parent-reported ADHD symptoms, Self-reported behavioral adjustment, Vestibular and ocular-motor screening and Neuropsychological (cognitive) testing.

For the experiment, sensors were placed in the helmets of the players to monitor sub-concussive head impacts during the game as well as during practice.  As per records, a computer test used to process speed that declined over time, while the other 22 outcome measures either improved or did not change over time. Moreover, it was observed that neither the total number of impacts nor the intensity of impacts were in close relation with changes in the outcomes. The results were based on the effect recorded from 55 players that participated in both season 1 and season 2 of the study.

“So far, the study is showing us that sub-concussive impacts don’t seem to be associated with changes in neurocognitive function over two seasons of youth football. And we’re finding that other factors, such as ADHD and younger age are more predictive of worsening scores on our pre and post-season tests,” commented Dr. Rose. “However, we remain concerned about repetitive head impacts in children, and longer follow up times are necessary to look for delayed effects on neurocognition.”

As per reports, the study continues to extend their research prognosis for additional two years. The results of the previous two years of study were published in the Journal of Neurotrauma, while the research data of the first season was published in 2018 in Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation.