Monday, October 11, 2010

Silent Shocks--- Sports Damage Undetected in Young Brains

"Our key finding is a previously undiscovered category of cognitive impairment." ---Thomas Talavage, co-director, Purdue MRI Facility.

Football hits, headed soccer balls, bodyslams, impacts repeated over and over. And undiagnosed changes in brain function.

What does this mean? That athletes may suffer brain injuries that are extremely difficult to diagnose, but no less dangerous than one big concussion.

A team of Purdue researchers monitored 21 players at Jefferson High School in Lafayette, Ind. The athletes wore sensor-fitted helmets that measured rapid acceleration, the impact of hit that slam the brain inside the skull. The data inputs were monitored by a Purdue professor of mechanical engineering (and an expert in central nervous system and musculoskeletal trauma).

Impact data stunned the researchers. They tested every player, not just ones known to have suffered previous concussions.

What did they find? Cognitive impairment--- in players NEVER diagnosed with concussions. Fully half of the players, outwardly uninjured, showed significant changes in brain function!

The Journal of Neurotrauma is publishing the full data.

"The problem is that the usual clinical signs of a head injury are not present," said Larry Leverenz, an expert in athletic training and a clinical professor of health and kinesiology. "There is no sign or symptom that would indicate a need to pull these players out of a practice or game, so they just keep getting hit."

So, in school, students are trained to learn, to grow their minds, and yet many are subjected to brain trauma? Do you disqualify a student from these violent impact sports once they are damaged?

Do you impair brain function as part of readying students for productive lives? Does that make sense? Or do you somehow protect them from the hits altogether? Hits are a big part of the game, no?

Can this trend be reversed? How could it be, without changing the fundamental nature of student contact sports?

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