More stones are being unturned when it comes to head trauma and impact. First, the research showed that concussions cause cognitive impairment. Then, some years later, it was discovered that numerous head impacts led to concussions. And now, new research indicates that multiple low-level head impacts, without symptoms of concussions, cause cognitive decline and abnormalities.
New research that was done on youth football players showed that the impact caused by shock was enough. This study was completed by Dr. Thayne Munce from South Dakota and Dr. Shaun Fickling from Vancouver. Sanford Research conducted the study in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
The scientist tracked 15 American football players under the age of 14 using neuro-technology created by HealthTech Connex Inc. in Surrey, British Columbia. The technology serves as an assessment and diagnostic tool for cognitive evaluation and stimulation. It monitors and detects brain signals and signs in different parts of the brain and provides feedback.
Fickling, the lead in the study, said they measured head impacts from light to severe on different players. They detected and found that the brain experienced changes based on what is considered low-level or normal head collision. This is known as subconcussive impact. It is a mechanical force transmitted to the brain that occurs under the threshold of a concussion. So, if you are looking for a concussion, you won’t find it. The trauma is hidden in cognitive decline. The effects of these low-level hits and impacts are not noticeable to the player or even the doctor.
As a result, the number of impacts determines cognitive decline. For example, the more repetitive impacts a player experiences, the greater the cognitive changes or issues in the brain. However, according to Fickling, one problem with the study was that they only observed the players during their season. They did not analyze the players in the off-season when their bodies were recovering to see if cognitive decline continued or improved.
In the future, Fickling wants his research to focus on a more extensive and diverse sample of populations. He wants to include different sports and genders of different ages. Also, he wants to track for a more extended period, like in the off-season. His research would be essential to see if the brain can recover from cognitive degeneration and definitely be a game changer. It will help researchers to better prepare athletes in the best way possible.
How it Affects the Future
This research is truthfully tricky and harsh to swallow. It is not good news for the youth. In one sense, you have sports designed to develop so many positive qualities. And now, a flaw has been discovered in its intention and purpose that causes negative aspects.
Fickling’s final response and takeaway message from his study were to figure out a way to limit head impact as much as possible.
That leaves us to ponder and think, how do you make youth football safer to play? Will football video games be the way to compete in the future? Changing how athletes play the game will be extremely challenging or even at all possible. For instance, in soccer, will they eliminate head balls? Or in football, stop tackling and blocking?
The recovery process of the study is essential to know. Because if the brain can heal from low-level and minor impacts based on non-concussions, and restore from decline, then there is hope. But if not, athletes must be monitored and understand when cognitive decline starts.