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Even with rest, brain changes linked to football linger

Repeated helmet impacts have been linked to changes in the white matter of some football players' brains. The changes lingered even after six months of no-contact rest, which suggests that repeated hits over many seasons may lead to cumulative alterations, scientists say.

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The offseason may not allow enough time for football players' brains to heal from hard hits.

A new study looked at the brains and head impacts (an average of 431 to 1,850 per player per season) of 10 division III college football players. None of the players were diagnosed with a concussion. But images show that five of the athletes still had changes in their brains' white matter six months after the season ended, suggesting that any mild injury had not healed, researchers report April 16 in PLOS ONE.

The results also suggest that inflammation may contribute to whether players recover in the offseason and may provide another marker for doctors to use to determine when a player can get back in the game.

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