Football impacts the brain, regardless of concussions

Football impacts the brain, regardless of concussions

Researchers at Wake Forest University recently discovered that the brains of people who play football can change drastically after only one season, even if they don't experience any concussions. The study was presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.

Football players experience heavy hits that could have serious consequences for their brains.

Heavy hitting has hefty consequences 

Scientists looked at 24 football players from Winston-Salem High School in North Carolina between the ages of 16 and 18. They had special devices called Head Impact Telemetry Systems attached to their helmets to monitor heavy hits, and were given brain scans before and after the season.

Researchers assembled the HITs data, which revealed concussion risk, combined with total head impacts throughout the season, to determine whether the teenagers were "heavy hitters" or "light hitters." There were nine players considered "light" and 15 categorized as "heavy." None of the players had an official concussion during the time of the study. 

Results showed that both groups of football players experienced an increase in fractional anisotropy, a measurement of the movement of water molecules along nerve fibers in the brain. FA levels indicate communication abilities. While this is positive, researchers concluded that it was mostly due to the fact that their brains were still young and developing. Post-season, the athletes described as "heavy hitters" had significantly lower levels of FA in certain areas of the brain compared to the players who were only lightly hit throughout the season. 

"This discrepancy in FA levels is directly related to the fact that football aims to knock people down as hard as possible – and that players are often struck directly in the head."

The BBC reported that this discrepancy in FA levels is directly related to the fact that football aims to knock people down as hard as possible – and that players are often struck directly in the head. Further research is being done to see whether these changes can be reversed later in life, or if this brain movement is causing permanent damage for high school students. 

Be good to your brain 
While football – and many other competitive sports – involve a risk of injury, it's important to take care of your brain from the inside out. In addition to wearing helmets and attempting to minimize hard hits to your cranium, eating a proper diet is crucial for cognitive strength. When eating to support brain health, make sure your diet is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. According to the Mayo Clinic, these super food compounds support memory and reduce inflammation, making them an essential addition to any nutritious meal. An easy way to consume your recommended amount of omega-3s is through the supplement Omax3. These premium capsules contain 91 percent concentrated omega-3, so you know you're making the best choice for maximum human performance.

Essential takeaways  

  • Researchers from Wake Forest University conducted a study to determine the effects of football on the brains of 24 high school football players. 
  • After dividing the subjects into two groups, scientists concluded that those categorized as "heavy hitters" experienced noticeable changes to their brain's fractional anisotropy, which affects their cognitive communication abilities. 
  • In addition to minimizing head impacts, consuming plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, like those in Omax3, is crucial to keeping your brain healthy.