Football Brain Injuries

Football players don't necessarily have to suffer a concussion to suffer brain damaging effects. A new study finds the hits a player takes may cause a cumulative effect with, or without, a concussion.

"So, these things act in concert and they start a cycle by which the brain leaks a protein in the bloodstream, this protein triggers an immune response against the brain, and so on," said Dr. Damir Janigro with Cleveland Clinic.

Using post-game blood draws researchers from the University of Rochester found four of the 67 college football players they followed showed signs of an autoimmune response associated with brain disorders.

In other words, they had higher levels of a protein in their blood, which is only found in the brain and is typically tied to epilepsy and dementia.

The protein is not supposed to get out of the brain and into the bloodstream, but when it does… it's a sign the blood-brain barrier has been broken, which causes the body's immune system to attack.

"Our data supports the idea that it is clearly more complicated than you get hit in the head and have a chronic disease. Obviously there is some pre-disposition and there are other factors."

Complete findings for this study are in the online journal "plos one."

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