A new study has suggested that young and healthy athletes involved in sports where body contact is part of the game have changes in their brain “typically associated with concussion or minor brain injury.” Researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto performed preseason brain scans on young athletes and the effect of different levels of contact sports on their brains. It was found that even though the athletes don’t suffer significant health problems or changes in day-to-day functioning, there are still “biological consequences to collision” in these sports, even with young and healthy athletes. With more contact in sports, there was a greater difference in the effect of the structure, function, and chemical markers in the brain. Those in higher level contact sports were found to have decreased brain activity and signs of reduced communication between areas in the brain, especially those areas involved in vision and motor function. With more contact exposure, athletes had changes that looked similar to a concussion. These changes seem to be more related to decreased brain activity, rather than severe brain tissue injury. As these changes become more known, medical experts can better understand the long-term effects. The authors of the study noted that it was important to remember the benefits of sports on health and that this study was aimed at trying to better understand the long-term outcomes of a small number of athletes that suffer negative health consequences.
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