Neurocognitive findings in adults who played youth football
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Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) has been linked to contact sports, most notably boxing and American football, due to their propensity for repetitive head impacts. Concerns in the community for the safety of athletes in all contact sports has driven a significant amount of research into concussions, their long term effects, and strategies for treatment and prevention. Knowledge of long term brain health in response to neurotrauma is limited, a gap especially noticeable in the literature on non-catastrophic brain injuries sustained as a child. Concussion is a common injury that is often self-resolving with no lasting neurologic or cognitive deficits. Although repetitive brain trauma is hypothesized to be necessary and sufficient to lead to CTE, no human or animal models have definitively demonstrated the pathophysiologic connection or confirmed the mechanism of symptoms. The research to date has been case based, lacking prospective cohorts, with data complicated by convenience sampling. These factors limit the generalizability of conclusions. CTE is neuropathologically defined with variable symptoms; however, it is only diagnosable at postmortem autopsy making the etiology and prevalence difficult to understand. As more research is published to understand if there is an association between a neurocognitive degenerative disease and contact sports, the concentration is on professional athletes. Yet professional athletes do not represent the overwhelming majority of all contact sport participants. The proposed study will compare adults who participated in youth football, but not beyond the high school level, to a control group of adults who did not play contact sports. Evaluating their cognitive function with an online assessment, the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function – Adult Version (BRIEF-A), data will be analyzed for signs of clinical cognitive impairment. The objective is to measure adults who represent the high percentage of youth football players who do not continue to the advanced levels. Data obtained from this study will help communities make informed decisions, and create the foundation for future studies on long term benefits and risks of contact sports for children.