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Sports-Related Impacts Linked to White-Matter Changes, Even Without Concussion — Physician’s First Watch

Medical News |
December 12, 2013

Sports-Related Impacts Linked to White-Matter Changes, Even Without Concussion

By Kelly Young

Even if they don't sustain a concussion, college athletes who play contact sports still have white-matter changes that may have "some functional significance," researchers write in Neurology.

During a single season, Dartmouth College athletes playing contact sports wore helmets outfitted with accelerometers to measure head impacts. They also underwent pre- and post-season neuroimaging. Researchers compared the results of some 80 athletes who played ice hockey and football with those of some 80 athletes in track, crew, and Nordic skiing. Those sustaining concussions were excluded.

Contact sports caused an average of 500 head impacts over a season. The impacts were associated with white-matter abnormalities. Greater changes in the corpus callosum signaled worse performance on a test of verbal learning and memory.

The authors say their findings suggest that some brain regions can be affected by repetitive impacts, even in the absence of concussion, and that the changes "may be related to verbal learning and memory."

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