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Students playing contact sports at risk for brain damage

All across the nation student athletes are suiting up for gridiron matches against rival schools in their areas. In the world of high school athletics, football reigns supreme.

But beneath the brightly-colored uniforms are the still-growing bodies of adolescents and teenagers. Playing contact sports puts them at great risk of suffering significant and life-altering brain injuries in the games, researchers have discovered.

Similarities arise between pro athletes' CTE diagnoses

Studies conducted at New Jersey's St. Michael's Hospital revealed that brain damage and body contact are inextricably linked by the contact sports that young athletes play.

The result of the research study were recently published in Frontiers of Neurology. They were alarming, as just this summer, tests done on the brains of deceased professional football players from the National Football League (NFL) indicated 99 percent of the players' brains were positive for signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The condition causes devastating symptoms, including depression, vertigo, memory loss and dementia.

The research on the student athletes focused on 65 varsity athletes who had preseason brain scans. The kids were split into three groups: 23 who played collision sports with routine, purposeful contact between the athletes' bodies; 22 contact sport players, where contact is not integrally part of the game, but is allowed, and; 20 non-contact sport players. All were healthy young athletes.

Early signs of brain damage?

Their findings showed that athletes who played contact and collision sports showed changes affecting the chemical markers, structure and function of their brains. These students' brains also appeared visibly different from those athletes who only played non-contact sports.

The collision sports the athletes played included ice hockey and tackle football. Contact sports included field hockey, soccer and basketball.

If you are the parent of a student who plays collision or contact sports on a Florida varsity team, your young athlete could be at high risk of suffering irreversible brain damage. If he or she gets injured on the field or court this season, parents may decide to learn about the available options they have to pursue compensation for their children's injuries and other losses.

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