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College Football Players Who Don’t Suffer Concussions Still Have Brain Damage

Mar 08, 2013 03:03 PM EST

College football players have one more thing to be concerned about. A new study released Friday from researchers at Cleveland Clinic and the University of Rochester have found that football players may suffer long-term brain changes despite not having suffered a concussion.

"Although the awareness of sports-related concussions is much higher, we still know very little about the long-term consequences and what happens inside the brain," the study's co-author Dr. Jeffrey J. Bazarian, associate professor of emergency medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center in N.Y., said in the study, which was published in the online medical journal PLOS One.

Researchers analyzed 67 college football players in 2011 by taking blood samples and administered brain scans and cognitive test. The researchers watched game tape of players to record the number of hits they received, and interviewed each player after the game to see if they had concussive symptoms. Players were assigned a score from zero to six based on the number of hits they endured.

According to the studies, the blood tests revealed that around 40 players were found to have increased levels of an antibody. This antibody relates to brain damage. Abnormalities related to brain were detected by the scientists through brain scans attributable to the presence of the antibody.

The results of the study could alter the perception that concussions are the primary culprit behind long-term brain injuries suffered by college and professional football players. No player in the study suffered a concussion; nonetheless, 40 of the 67 players profiled sustained the sort of hits to the head to mimic the results of a concussion-related brain injury.

"We have shown that elevations of serum S100B," which the study proves is a sign of a disruption of blood flowing to the brain, "occur in football players who experience sub-concussive head hits below the threshold for a diagnosis of concussion," the study reads.

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