Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have announced that a $3.3 million National Institutes of Health grant is enabling an expansion of their investigation of the effects of head impact on high-school level football players. Principal investigator Christopher Whitlow, MD, PhD, associate professor and chief of neuroradiology at Wake Forest School of Medicine, noted that although forceful hits have been traditionally associated with concussion and other traumatic brain injury, “…there’s growing evidence that the repeated, sub-concussive head impacts experienced by players over the course of a season may result in brain changes similar to those seen with traumatic injuries. Such changes are especially alarming in children and adolescents, whose brains are in a stage of rapid development.”
The expanded research adds high-school level players to an ongoing investigation of middle-school- age participants and uses imaging, cognitive testing and biomechanical inputs to assess the cumulative effects of repeated head impacts. Study subjects receive pre-and post-season cognitive testing as well as imaging by MRI and magnetoencephalography that measures the magnetic fields generated by neurons in the brain. Sensors placed in each player’s helmet record the number and force of impacts and the head motions caused by them. Or the research objectives Dr. Whitlow summarized “The ultimate goal is to provide evidence-based information that will lead to better prevention, identification and treatment of pediatric head injuries and help make football a safer activity for the millions of young people who play it.” Read more about the ongoing research and preliminary findings here.