Brain damage from football concussions varies by position and career duration

Football players may experience different degrees of brain damage after concussions depending on what position they play and how long they stick with the sport, a small U.S. study suggests.

Researchers examined data from brain scans of 61 former college and professional football players who didn’t have any symptoms of cognitive impairment. One technique, known as diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), looked at the structural integrity of white matter, which connects different parts of the brain; the other test, known as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), measured brain function while participants competed memory tasks.

Former college players with three or more concussions had more extensive white matter damage than their counterparts with one concussion or less, researchers report online October 31 in Radiology. But the opposite was true for athletes who went on to play professionally.

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