Study Finds Youth Football May Affect Brain as Young as 8

A study published Monday in the journal Radiology found the youngest football players, ages 8 to 13, who have shown no concussion symptoms still suffer changes associated with traumatic brain injury after just one year of playing. The subtle changes only became evident, however, when compared with brain scans taken before a child started to play football. Before and after the single season studied by researchers, the participating players underwent brain-imaging scans to detect tiny changes in the structure of white matter—neurons in the brain—which tell doctors about the effects of head trauma. After the season, the scans found, boys who had experienced more head impacts experienced more changes in the white-matter structures. “We aren’t out to destroy football, by any means,” lead co-researcher Joel Stitzel told The Atlantic. “This is the type of work that’s going to save and help football going forward.”