After the highly charged Super Bowl, two sobering studies emerged. One unveiled an improved molecular imaging technology that verified—and precisely identified—brain damage in some National Football League (NFL) players. The other study revealed that brain damage can be more severe in NFL players who start playing football before age 12.
(1) “The most critical take-home message is that we now have this molecular imaging technology to visualize and quantify brain injury at the molecular level and in real-time in the living human brain,” the lead author, Johns Hopkins University behavioral psychiatrist Jennifer Coughlin, M.D., told Bioscience Technology. “With this technology we can begin to design research studies to test for signs of brain injury immediately after concussion, in the period following concussion, over the course of each year of NFL play, and in the years after cessation of play.”
(2) Another study equated brain damage with age. In the January 28th Neurology, a team led by Boston University (BU) neurologist Robert Stern, Ph.D., found that NFLers who played tackle football before age 12 were more likely to have memory and thinking difficulties as adults. The team tested 42 former NFL players who were an average age of 52. All had memory and thinking problems for at least six months. Half played tackle football before age 12; half did not. Both groups suffered a similar number of concussions.