UofR releases study on young athletes and brain injuries

Updated: 04/18/2014 8:59 PM
Created: 04/18/2014 9:24 AM WHEC.com
By: Janet Lomax

Athletes and brain injuries -- it's a concern for athletes and their parents whether it's football, soccer or lacrosse. Now new research with football players at the University of Rochester shows the damage to the brain may take longer to heal than first thought. While none of those players actually suffered a concussion, Dr. Jeffrey Barzarian says what they found could be the start of finding ways to make the game safer.

Football can be a rough. During a typical season, a player can suffer between 400 to 1,800 head hits, according to Dr. Jeffrey Bazarian, lead author of a new study.

For about three years now, they've been following the U of R Yellow Jackets, some of whom wear helmets fitted with a computer chip that records each hit. For the new study, 10 players were given sophisticated brain scans at the beginning and then at the end of the season. Dr. Bazarian says none suffered a concussion but after six months of rest, U of R researchers found all of the players had mild brain injury.

That's not new. Other researchers have reported that. What is new is that the injury did not go away within six months of rest." Dr. Bazarian says like other injuries that get better with rest, they hoped the brain would too. "Unfortunately, we found just the opposite, that six months of rest was not enough for these brains to get back where they were at the beginning of the season."

The doctor says "We're concerned though because NFL players who've developed some problems later in life have changes very similar."

This project is a collaboration with the U of R Athletic Center and the Cleveland Clinic. They are the first to report these findings but Dr. Bazarian says it's not time to sound the alarm. "There were several players who did recover at the end of the six months, not the majority, but a few of them did and they may give us clues as to how we can make the game of football safer for the brain."

What's next? Dr. Bazarian says they will continue to follow the U of R players and scan their brains again and see what they look like in two years, to find out why some recovered in 6 months and others didn't.

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