Stories about NFL players and brain injuries have been big news for a few years. Unfortunately, there is far less information about brain injuries in children who play football. With 3.5 million youth who play football, this is an enormous gap in child safety.

A recent study of youth football players aims to close this gap. The results show that children can suffer brain damage even if they do not exhibit symptoms of a concussion.

By studying brain imaging of boys ages 8 to 13 during football season, the research team found that head impact caused changes to the white matter in their brains. These changes are much like those found in patients who have mild brain injuries. The results of the study reveal that what we consider minor head impact may be very dangerous, especially to young children.

Head trauma can have lifelong effects

All traumatic brain injuries (TBI), including mild TBI, can have long-term consequences. Brain injuries and multiple blows to the head can cause conditions such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). People who play contact sports (football, hockey, soccer and boxing) are at risk for CTE because they often suffer blows to the head during practice and games.

CTE has devastating effects that can last a lifetime. Symptoms include:

  • Aggressive behavior
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Depression
  • Severe dementia

CTE is just one of the side effects of TBI and head trauma. If your child suffers head trauma from a contact sport or an accident, it’s critical to seek medical care right away. The earlier you get a diagnosis and treatment begins, the better chance your child has of making a fuller recovery.