No Cognitive Deterioration Found After Two Years of Youth Football

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Sean C. Rose, MD Pediatric sports neurologist and co-director of the Complex Concussion Clinic Nationwide Children’s Hospital 

Dr. Rose

Sean C. Rose, MD
Pediatric sports neurologist and co-director of the
Complex Concussion Clinic
Nationwide Children’s Hospital 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: Very limited data has been collected in children while they are playing contact sports to study the relationship between repetitive head impacts and neurocognitive outcomes.  We previously published a 1-year analysis of youth tackle football players and found no association between the number or severity of head impacts and performance on neurocognitive testing before to after the football season.  We are now reporting the results from the 2nd year of our study, tracking children through two seasons of football participation.

We measured head impacts using helmet sensors during the 2016 and 2017 football seasons.  In the total group of 166 players age 9-18, one outcome measure (processing speed), out of the 23 outcome measures studied, declined over time.  However, several other measures that also assessed processing speed did not decline.  Neither the total burden of head impacts nor the intensity of individual impacts were associated with changes in testing performance over the course of the two seasons.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Cumulative head impacts from playing two years of youth or high school tackle football do not correlate with changes in performance on a battery of neurocognitive tests.  While concerns remain about sub-concussive impacts in children, our results do not suggest that they worsen neurocognitive performance.  However, our study was not capable of detecting a delayed onset of problems years after contact exposure.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Longer follow-up times are necessary to detect any delayed neurocognitive problems as the player ages.  We are following the football players in our study through subsequent seasons and will continue to report the data from this study. Similar longitudinal studies are also needed in other contact sports and in females. 

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add? 

Response: Thank you to MORE Foundation for supporting this study, The Sports Neurology Clinic for helping conduct the study, and the many collaborators and members of the research team, coaches, and trainers involved.  The study was funded by Riddell and ElMindA. 

Citation:

Sean C. Rose, Keith Owen Yeates, Joseph T. Nguyen, Matthew T. McCarthy, Patrick M. Ercole, Natalie M. Pizzimenti. Neurocognitive Function and Head Impact Burden over Two Seasons of Youth Tackle Football. Journal of Neurotrauma, 2019; DOI: 10.1089/neu.2019.6519

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