Football season is almost here! But studies suggest contact sports can have consequences on the brain & hearing* **
Brain damage in professional football players has been a hot topic in the news recently. In the United States, concussions due to sport-related injuries accounts for two million concussions each year which can occur at any age or expertise level, ranging from children or athletes in schools to professionals. Of all these injuries, football accounts for the highest number of concussions compared to any other sports. Research indicates that professional football athletes sustain 900-1500 head injuries every season, many of which can lead to concussions.
A mildly traumatic form of brain injury that results from a fall or a strike to the head is known as a concussion. A concussion results in the brain moving to and fro within the skull at an extremely high pace which can result in damage to neural pathways due to sudden and constant contact with the skull. Even though the brain floats within cerebral spinal fluid that is meant to act as a shock absorber thereby protecting this organ, concussions can result in sudden disruption which can have detrimental effects.
Scientific Reports recently published a study that indicates that hearing tests, specifically a frequency-following response (FFR) are better equipped at determining whether an athlete has endured some form of concussion. Concussions lead to lowered firing of neural signals within the brain which can be measured by these hearing tests.
Neurologist Nina Kraus from Northwestern University, Illinois found that athletes who had sustained a concussion were unable to follow speech patterns properly. The brain responses of athletes with concussion were slower, which resulted in a reduced capacity to follow speech patterns. Furthermore, the study also discovered that the more severe the concussion, the more difficulty the athlete had in following speech.
*Scientific American, January 1, 2016
**The Hearing Journal, May 2017