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Can neurocognitive function be affected by playing tackle football?

Researchers study if children experience a change in neurocognitive function due to head impacts from playing tackle football.

Contact sports being played by children are still a concern among medical professionals and parents. Experiencing head impacts can lead to short- and/or long-term neurocognitive effects.

In a study published by the Journal of Neurotrauma, children who played tackle football, between the ages of nine and 18, were observed after head impacts. The children took a variety of assessments prior to the game season.

The assessments included balance testing, cognitive testing, parent-reported ADHD symptoms, self-reported behavioral adjustment, symptoms assessment, and vestibular and ocular-motor screening. The assessments were redone after the football season ended to test neurocognitive function. The football players wore helmets with sensors throughout their games and practices. The sensors indicated when a sub-concussive head impact occurred.

Results showed that head impacts had no effect on neurocognitive function over two years of playing tackle football.

Histories of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, as well as being of younger age, were predicted to be more impactful on neurocognitive measures than head impacts.

Contact sports and repeated head impacts are still a major concern when it comes to neurocognitive function, especially among children. The study mentions that testing neurocognitive function well after head impacts could show changes.

With this being said, more studies should be considered to test for postponed effects. Researchers have released results from the first two years of the study; they plan on studying this topic for another two years.

References:

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

Study finds no correlation between brain function & head impacts after 2 seasons of tackle football. 2019, https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-07/nch-sfn071019.php, assessed 11 June, 2019.

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