Off-Season For Football Players May Not Be Long Enough To Recover From Head Injuries

Apr 17, 2014

Credit urmc.rochester.edu

A new study that involves a local researcher says that the typical off-season for a football player may not be long enough for the player's brain to heal from head injuries.

The lead author of the study is Dr. Jeffrey Bazarian, associate professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.  Bazarian investigated the brains of 10 U of R football players before the start of the 2011 season, at the conclusion of the season, and after six months of no-contact rest.

All of the players took part in daily practices and weekly games, but none of them suffered a concussion. Imaging scans showed changes consistent with mild brain injury in about half of the players, despite the fact that no one had a concussion.

Bazarian says that six months off may not be long enough for the brains of some football players to completely heal and he says that puts them at even greater risk of head injury in the next season. He says he is not trying to derail football, but to make the sport safer.  

Bazarian says one idea that has been proposed is a system similar to the pitch count in baseball. He says in football, that would mean identifying a certain number of head hits at a certain force, and if the number rose above that threshold, the player would be taken out of the game.

He does say that more studies are needed, and there is already a follow-up project underway to focus on inflammation.