Subconcussive head impacts may damage cognitive function

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A multi-year study showed that repetitive head impacts that don’t qualify as concussions can impair brain function over time.

The study, published in the journal Brain Communications, was conducted by researchers at Sanford Research, a non-profit organization in South Dakota, and Simon Fraser University (SFU) in Surrey, British Colombia, along with Surrey-based biotechnology company, Healthtech Connex. The research team set out to explore the relationship between subconcussive head impacts and changes in brain vital signs.

The study involved 15 male youth football players, all under the age of 14 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The football players were tested for concussions before and after their season. None of them were diagnosed with concussions for either test.

Researchers observed the participants’ cognitive brain function pre-season and post-season through “brain vital signs,” which use portable electroencephalography (EEG) to measure complex brain waves, providing an objective evaluation of auditory sensation, basic attention, and cognitive processing. The associations between head impacts and brain vital signs were tested through regression analysis.

The results showed significant changes in the cognitive function of participants pre-season and post-season. The study found a linear relationship between levels of head impact expose and changes in brain vital signs. These results correspond with a previous study that measured cognitive function and head impacts in youth hockey players.

This study demonstrates the negative effects that repeated head impacts have on brain function.