Health scare of the week Foot­ball and chil­dren’s brains

The Week (US) - - News -

Just a sin­gle sea­son of foot­ball can dam­age the brain devel­op­ment of young play­ers, a new study sug­gests. Re­searchers fit­ted 60 youth and high school foot­ball play­ers with a teleme­try sys­tem to mea­sure the im­pacts they re­ceived to the head. The play­ers were split into two groups—those who re­ceived a lot of knocks on the head and those who re­ceived rel­a­tively few—and were given a rest­ing-state func­tional brain scan be­fore and after the sea­son. From those scans, the re­searchers found that in the high-im­pact group the “prun­ing” process in the brain—when un­needed synapses are re­moved to make room for new and im­por­tant neu­ral con­nec­tions—had been markedly dis­rupted. “Prun­ing is an es­sen­tial part of brain devel­op­ment,” study co-au­thor Gowtham Kr­ish­nan Mu­ruge­san, from UT South­west­ern Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Dal­las, tells “By get­ting rid of the synapses that are no longer used, the brain be­comes more ef­fi­cient with ag­ing.” Mu­ruge­san rec­om­mends that youth teams re­place high-im­pact prac­tice drills with low- or no-im­pact drills to re­duce the num­ber of hits kids re­ceive.

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