Repeated head impacts in hockey found to impair brain

Radio Canada International

April 27, 2021

An ongoing study of young hockey players has found that younger boys suffered more functional brain impairments from head impacts even when the injuries were not diagnosed as concussions.

Children, especially boys, often start playing hockey at a young age in Canada. Starting at age 13, players are allowed to check. That means a defensive player may crash into an opponent who is handling the puck to try to have him lose control of it or disrupt play. The hit may come from a hip or shoulder but often it may result in a blow to the head either from the player or a collision with the boards that surround the rink.

Players may return to play but be suffering undetected brain impairments

Neuroscientists at the Health and Technology District and Simon Fraser University in the western province of British Columbia have teamed up with those at Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota, U.S. to study the effects of head impacts on the brain.

They studied Bantam players who are 13 to 14 years old and Junior A players who are between 16 and 20. There are protocols that establish when players are deemed to have recovered enough from a concussion to return to play. The scientists published an article in 2019 showing that there were undetected brain impairments that remained when Junior A players were allowed to return to play under those protocols. The new study included players in the Bantam level.

More impacts correlated with more brain changes

The results showed sensitivity to impairments in players who did not have an official concussion diagnosis. That is, players who had low-magnitude impacts may not have noticed them and they may not have been noticed by coaches or other observers. These caused what the scientists called subconcussive changes and they were found to be significantly correlated with the number of head impacts over the season across both age groups. There were more such changes in the older group. There were significant brain vital sign changes observed in both groups.

“Our research has shown that repetitive subconcussive impacts triggered compounding effects in brain function changes, which underscores the importance of shifting our thinking and understanding of concussions as a singular acute-injury model to a spectrum of head-impact exposure and effects over time,” said Dr. Shaun Fickling, a biomedical engineer at Simon Fraser University.

Hopes for better prevention and care

“In medicine: you can’t treat what you can’t measure. With breakthroughs on measurement challenges, we hope to now accelerate treatment innovations for prevention, acute care and extended care concussion management,” said Dr. Ryan D’Arcy, a Canadian neuroscientist who has developed the portable NeuroCatch brain monitoring device that is currently being used in various concussion studies including in ice hockey, football and mixed martial arts.

The study was published in the journal Brain Communications.

NOCSAE News

View All
  • When Can My Child Start To Play Tackle Football?
    January 25, 2022

    Stack January 20, 2022 The United States has seen a decline in youth and high school football participation in recent years. Many safety concerns have risen, especially when it comes to concussions and head injuries. This concern has led parents, school officials, and other football stakeholders to take a careful look at when it is […]

    Read more
  • Canadian scientists may be on the verge of a reliable test for concussions
    January 25, 2022

    Toronto Star January 21, 2022 It’s been more than a decade since Dr. Charles Tator, the Toronto neurosurgeon, emerged as an authoritative voice of reason in the effort to curtail concussions in sports. And while there’ve been low moments along the way, like the time Tator was swamped with hate mail after he dared call […]

    Read more
  • NFL, Amazon Web Services Create Digital Athlete to Keep Players ‘Left of Boom’ on Injuries
    January 25, 2022

    SportTechie January 21, 2022 The most important football player in the future of the NFL will do anything you ask. This athlete literally runs the same play over and over, millions of times. Requests to wear a new helmet or new cleats are always acceded. Change the venue, the field surface, the weather, even the […]

    Read more

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *