Study: Football Hits Cause Brain Changes, Even Without Concussion

March 8, 2013

Must See Sports Injuries Videos

A new study by the Cleveland Clinic found that blows to the head can lead to measurable and lasting changes in the brain—even when those hits do not cause concussions.

Researchers set out to examine the consequences of “sub-concussive events,” or the type of head hits football players experience hundreds of times per season during normal play. They monitored 67 collegiate football players in Ohio and New York, taking blood samples before and after games and at the beginning and end of the season. They also analyzed game film and administered questionnaires after games to see which players experienced the hardest hits.

The result? Players who took hits to the head below the threshold of a concussion had elevated levels of S100B in their bloodstreams. S100B is a protein considered an indicator of damage to the blood-brain barrier, the brain’s protective lining. Players who took the most hits had the highest levels of S100B in their bloodstreams.

The body responds to significantly elevated levels of S100B by releasing antibodies to attack it, misidentifying the protein as an invader, Researchers believe those auto-antibodies can harm the brain if they get through its protective barrier, which is possible after a blow to the head has damaged it. They also tracked the presence of those auto-antibodies and found a correlation between elevated auto-antibody levels and problems with impulse control.

Researchers also observed that brain changes caused by head hits lasted as long as six months.

"This is a very strong study to suggest that you don't have to have any recognized concussions to have brain dysfunction," Boston University neurosurgeon Dr. Robert Cantu told Cleveland's daily newspaper, The Plain Dealer. Cantu is a leading researcher of brain injuries. He was not involved with the Clinic study, but he did review it.

"The big message is that those [football players] who are taking 1,000, 1,500 hits over the course of a season, a significant number of them may be taking some brain abnormalities as a result of it," Cantu said. "This is giving parents food for thought about the concept that no trauma is good for the brain."

Cantu and others spoke with Plain Dealer reporter John Mangels in his report on the new study, which you can read here.

[Plain Dealer]

Topics: CONCUSSION
Brian Sabin
- Executive Editor Brian Sabin is a Webby Award-winning writer, editor and producer covering all things health, fitness and sports. He previously worked as a Senior...
Brian Sabin
- Executive Editor Brian Sabin is a Webby Award-winning writer, editor and producer covering all things health, fitness and sports. He previously worked as a Senior...
Must See
Margus Hunt Benches 385 Pounds for Five Reps Margus Hunt Benches 385 Pounds for Five Reps
Views: 21,149,562
Michael Jordan: Mind of a Champion Michael Jordan: Mind of a Champion
Views: 548,329
Dashon Goldson: Dashon Goldson: "You Just Gotta Have Heart"
Views: 6,376,657

Featured Videos

Kevin Love's In-Season Basketball Workout Kevin Love's In-Season Basketball Workout Views: 1,018,026
A Day in the Life With Kansas City Chiefs Tight End Travis Kelce A Day in the Life With Kansas City Chiefs Tight End Travis Kelce Views: 15,983
Path to the Pros 2015: Shaq Thompson Path to the Pros 2015: Shaq Thompson Views: 70,834
Load More

Resources

STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers

Magazine

Latest issues of STACK Magazine

STACK 4W

Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice

Gamer

Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes

News

Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Two-Ball Dribbling Drill With John Wall Two-Ball Dribbling Drill With John Wall
Views: 3,362,770
Paul Rabil's Box Jumps Paul Rabil's Box Jumps
Views: 851,480
Roy Hibbert 540 lbs Deadlift Roy Hibbert 540 lbs Deadlift
Views: 1,577,381
Dribbling Drills for Tighter Handles Dribbling Drills for Tighter Handles
Views: 4,333,163
Ohio State Football Open Field Plyo Drill Ohio State Football Open Field Plyo Drill
Views: 9,499,164

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like
6 Simple Tips to Prevent Knee Injuries

6 Simple Tips to Prevent Knee Injuries

Tips for Preventing Knee Injuries During the New School Sports Year By Jim Carpentier, CSCS Watching an athlete grab their painful knee on the turf,...

5 Tips to Intelligently Train Through Lower Back Pain

5 Tips to Intelligently Train Through Lower Back Pain

Sports Hernias: What You Need to Know

Sports Hernias: What You Need to Know

2 Ways to Fix Anterior Pelvic Tilt

2 Ways to Fix Anterior Pelvic Tilt

6 Steps for Recovering From a Season-Ending Injury

6 Steps for Recovering From a Season-Ending Injury

Outsmart Injury With These 4 Predictive Tests

Outsmart Injury With These 4 Predictive Tests

How to Prevent In-Season Volleyball Injuries

How to Prevent In-Season Volleyball Injuries

The Future of Sports Injury Rehabilitation

The Future of Sports Injury Rehabilitation

Quarterbacks: 4 Tips to Keep Your Throwing Shoulder Healthy

Quarterbacks: 4 Tips to Keep Your Throwing Shoulder Healthy

Impressive Advances in ACL Rehab

Impressive Advances in ACL Rehab

How to Prevent Baseball Injuries During the Off-Season

How to Prevent Baseball Injuries During the Off-Season

Achilles Tendon Ruptures: Prevention and Recovery

Achilles Tendon Ruptures: Prevention and Recovery

4 Tips to Relieve Muscle Stiffness

4 Tips to Relieve Muscle Stiffness

Avoid Low-Back Pain With These 7 In-Season Exercises

Avoid Low-Back Pain With These 7 In-Season Exercises

Prevent ACL Injuries With This Hamstring-Focused Workout

Prevent ACL Injuries With This Hamstring-Focused Workout

4 Strategies to Prevent Tommy John Surgery

4 Strategies to Prevent Tommy John Surgery

8 of the Most Ridiculous Off-Field Athlete Injuries of All Time

8 of the Most Ridiculous Off-Field Athlete Injuries of All Time

Why Tommy John Surgery Is Ruining Pitchers

Why Tommy John Surgery Is Ruining Pitchers

STUDY: Imaginary Exercise Helps You Recover Faster From Injury

STUDY: Imaginary Exercise Helps You Recover Faster From Injury

6 Ways to Prevent Common Sports Injuries

6 Ways to Prevent Common Sports Injuries

Megan Rapinoes Secret to Staying Healthy

Megan Rapinoe

Reducing Low-Back Pain: What You Need to Know

Reducing Low-Back Pain: What You Need to Know

Dry Needling: Powerful, Drug-Free Pain Relief for Athletes

Dry Needling: Powerful, Drug-Free Pain Relief for Athletes

5 Things You Can Do to Prevent Muscle Injuries

5 Things You Can Do to Prevent Muscle Injuries

4 Sports Massage Techniques to Relieve Tight Muscles

4 Sports Massage Techniques to Relieve Tight Muscles

5 Bodyweight Exercises to Prevent Baseball Injuries

5 Bodyweight Exercises to Prevent Baseball Injuries

Preventing ACL Injuries in Soccer Players

Preventing ACL Injuries in Soccer Players

The Secret Weapon Powering Stephen Curry's Resurgence

The Secret Weapon Powering Stephen Curry's Resurgence

STUDY: Female Athletes Are at Higher Risk of Overuse Injuries

STUDY: Female Athletes Are at Higher Risk of Overuse Injuries

Basketball Players: Prevent Ankle Sprains With These 3 Exercises

Basketball Players: Prevent Ankle Sprains With These 3 Exercises

How to Train With Running Blisters

How to Train With Running Blisters

How to Treat Piriformis Syndrome

How to Treat Piriformis Syndrome

Eliminate Elbow Pain with These 3 Methods

Eliminate Elbow Pain with These 3 Methods

Predicting the Impact of DeMarco Murray's Hand Injury

Predicting the Impact of DeMarco Murray's Hand Injury

3 Steps to Prevent Soccer ACL Injuries

3 Steps to Prevent Soccer ACL Injuries

Pectoral Tendon Ruptures and Injury Prevention

Pectoral Tendon Ruptures and Injury Prevention

How to Keep Your Feet Healthy On and Off the Field

How to Keep Your Feet Healthy On and Off the Field

7 Ways to Fix Back Pain

7 Ways to Fix Back Pain

Avoid ACL Injuries in Softball with PREP

Avoid ACL Injuries in Softball with PREP

Evan Gattis's Protection-Enhanced Catcher's Helmet

Evan Gattis's Protection-Enhanced Catcher's Helmet

Coaches: Prevent Injuries With the Recovery Management Tool

Coaches: Prevent Injuries With the Recovery Management Tool

10 Ways to Fix Back Pain

10 Ways to Fix Back Pain

Connective Tissue: The Key to Preventing ACL Injuries

Connective Tissue: The Key to Preventing ACL Injuries

YardBarker