High school football players can undergo significant brain changes after only a single season— even if they don’t get a concussion, Wake Forest University researchers have found.
Scientists said the ongoing study of 24 students, ages 16 to 18, from a Winston-Salem, N.C. high school, is the largest and most comprehensive research of its kind.
“There’s been a lot of interest in NFL (National Football League) football and head impacts, and it’s gotten a lot of press,” study author Christopher T. Whitlow, associate professor of radiology at Wake Forest School of Medicine and radiologist at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, told FoxNews.com.
“But for every one NFL player, there [are] 2,000 high school players. Seventy percent of people playing football are adolescents, and it’s a really understudied population,” he said.
Researchers used Head Impact Telemetry System (HITs) helmet-mounted accelerometers to measure the frequency and severity of the players’ helmet impacts during practices and games. They then used the HITs data— which included the number of hits, as well as each hit’s magnitude and direction— to calculate each athlete’s risk-weighted exposure. Each player’s risk-weighted exposure was the product of the number of hits multiplied by the risk of concussion.