Researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital say they were surprised by the results of a study that found no decline in the neurocognitive abilities of youth football players over the course of one season.
Doctors made it clear that they did not study the effects of concussions, but instead studied the sub-concussive, less-violent tackles that are common in all levels of football.
Some previous studies have linked “routine” sub-concussive head trauma with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. But after following 112 players aged 9-18 over the course of the 2016 season, Nationwide Children's researchers say there was no discernable difference in a battery of tests.
"When trying to determine the chronic effects of repetitive sub-concussive head impacts, prospective outcomes studies are an important complement to the existing retrospective studies," said Dr. Sean Rose, a pediatric sports neurologist and co-director of the Complex Concussion Clinic at Nationwide Children’s.
"In this study of primary school and high school football players, a battery of neurocognitive outcomes tests did not detect any worsening of performance associated with cumulative head impacts,” Rose said.
The tests given to players included neuropsycholigical examinations, symptoms assessment, vestibular and ocular-motor screening, and balance testing.
The paper released Monday is the first analysis in a four-year study. The second year of data will be presented by Rose at the Chiled Neurology Society meeting later this month. Researchers are currently gathering data for a third year.