Soccer Players Show Signs of Brain Damage

By Todd Neale, Senior Staff Writer/MedPage Today/Nov. 13, 2012

Repetitive hits on the head that are below the threshold for causing a concussion may still result in changes in the brain’s white matter a small study of soccer players suggested.

On average, elite male soccer players – who often use their heads to direct the ball – had a range of negative changes in white matter architecture compared with a group of competitive swimmers who were unlikely to have repetitive brain trauma, according to Inga Koerte, MD, of Harvard Medical Schools Psychiatry Neuroimaging Laboratory in Boston, and colleagues.

Those differences were observed even though none of the participants in either group had a history of concussion, Koerte and colleagues reported in a research letter in the Nov. 14 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Although it is possible that frequent heading of the ball could explain the impairments in the soccer players, “differences in head injury rates, sudden accelerations, or even lifestyle could contribute,” the authors wrote.

Previous studies have shown that repetitive traumatic brain injury can have negative long-term consequences – including impaired white matter integrity – but the effects of frequent subconcussive head impacts are less clear.

For the full story go to MedPage Today.

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