Category Archives: College

Contact in Sports May Lead to Differences In The Brains Of Young, Healthy Athletes

People who play contact sports show changes to their brain structure and function, with sports that have greater risk of body contact showing greater effects on the brain, a new study has found.

Researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital performed preseason brain scans of 65 varsity athletes — 23 from collision sports (with routine, purposeful body-to-body contact), 22 from contact sports (where contact is allowed, but is not an integral part of the game) and 20 from non-contact sports.

They found that the athletes in collision and contact sports had differences in brain structure, function and chemical markers typically associated with brain injury, compared to athletes in non-contact sports.

Their findings were published online today in the journal Frontiers of Neurology.

Lead author Dr. Nathan Churchill, a post-doctoral fellow in St. Michael’s Neuroscience Research Program, said there was growing concern about how participation in contact sports may affect the brain.

Most of the research in this area has focused on the long-term effects for athletes in collision sports, such as football and ice hockey, where players may be exposed to hundreds of impacts in a single season. Less is known about the consequences of participating in contact sports where body-to-body contact is permitted, but is not purposeful, such as soccer, basketball and field hockey.

This study looked at both men and women from a variety of sports, and found progressive differences between the brains of athletes in non-contact, contact and collision sports.

This included differences in the structure of the brain’s white matter — the fibre tracts that connect different parts of the brain and allow them to communicate with one another. Athletes in sports with higher levels of contact also showed signs of reduced communication between brain areas and decreased activity, particularly within areas involved in vision and motor function, compared to those in non-contact sports, such as volleyball.

However, these differences do not reflect significantly impaired day-to-day functioning, said Dr. Tom Schweizer, head of the Neuroscience Research Program and a co-author of the paper, noting that the athletes in this study did not report significant health problems and were all active varsity athletes.

He said this study fills an important gap in understanding how contact affects healthy brains, as a step toward better understanding why a small number of athletes in contact sports show negative long-term health consequences.

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Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine to Host Ice Hockey Concussion Summit

Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine will host “Ice Hockey Summit III: Action on Concussion” Sept. 28-29.

Physicians, scientists, athletic trainers, coaches, officials and retired pro players from the U.S. and Canada will discuss the science of concussion, including prevention, diagnosis, treatment and future research. The summit focuses on ice hockey, but concussion-related topics apply to all sports.

The sessions include:

  • “Which Hockey Players are at Greatest Risk and Why?
  • “Can Financial Concerns and Pending Litigation Reduce Concussions in Pro Hockey?”
  • “The Brain’s Response to Concussive Events: Updates on the Neurometabolic Cascade”
  • “Pharmacologic Interventions Available now and on the Horizon”
  • “Fish Oils, Supplements and their Neuroprotective Effects”

“Ultimately, we’re coming together to make the sport safer for our athletes,” says Michael Stuart, M.D., orthopedic surgeon and co-director, Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine. “Athletes at all levels are bigger, stronger and faster. Therefore, we must improve our ability to diagnose, treat and prevent traumatic brain injury.”

As with the first two summits in 2010 and 2013, participants will develop recommendations to improve the safety of the sport. Panels featuring former hockey players, medical providers and experts with coaching, officiating and athletic training backgrounds will provide ideas for potential solutions.

Past recommendations helped foster rule changes, including penalties for all hits to the head, a delay in body checking until the 14-and-under level and the elimination of dangerous acts, such as checking from behind. After these rule changes, Minnesota Hockey/Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine data showed a significant decline in penalties related to checking from behind.

“To reduce concussions in hockey, we must change the mindset and behavior of players, coaches and fans,” says Aynsley Smith, Ph.D., sport and exercise psychologist and concussion investigator at Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine. “From a young age, athletes need to learn proper body control and stick play to shift the focus from checking to improving skills. We are making progress, but there is more to do.”

Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine is facilitating this conference with support from USA Hockey, International Ice Hockey Federation, Thorne Science, Hockey Equipment Certification Committee, American College of Sports Medicine, the Johansson-Gund Endowment, the Brian Mark Foundation and the Martineau Gift.

Members of the media who want to attend or interview participants should RSVP to the contact below by Thursday, Sept. 21.

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Provocative Second-Impact Syndrome Article Headlines Latest Issue of Concussion Litigation Reporter

The September issue of Concussion Litigation Reporter features many great stories. But one in particular may strike a nerve. Steven E. Pachman, Esq., Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads and Kimberly L. Sachs, Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law co-wrote an article entitled “Second Impact Syndrome: Diagnosis versus Myth.”

Other stories in the issue include:

Appeals Court Grants Relief to Riddell in Coverage Action

Jury Awards Concussed Softball Player $1.1 Million

Court Filing Urges Helmet Requirements to Protect Women Lacrosse Players

New Study Suggests Brain is in Recovery Mode Long After Athletes Have Been Cleared to Return to Play

The Golden State’s Golden Payouts No Longer Available to All Retired Athletes

Insurance Company and Conference Reportedly Settle Coverage Question

Letters of Protection, Deferred Medical Payments, and the Law

Attorney Assails CTE Study, Praises the Benefits of ‘Combat’ Sports

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