No Link Found Between Youth Tackle Football, Neurocognitive Issues
However, premorbid attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, mental health conditions tied to worse cognitive or behavioral scores
TUESDAY, Jan. 4, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- Repetitive head impacts in youth tackle football are not associated with adverse cognitive and behavioral outcomes, according to a study published online Dec. 30 in JAMA Network Open.
Sean C. Rose, M.D., from The Ohio State University in Columbus, and colleagues examined associations between cognitive and behavioral outcomes and head impacts measured in youth tackle football players (via helmet-based sensors) during four seasons of play. The analysis included 70 male participants (ages 9 to 12 years), with 18 completing all four years of the study.
The researchers found that at the postseason 1 time point, higher cumulative impacts were associated with lower self-reported symptom burden; however, no other associations were found between impacts and outcome measures after correcting for multiple comparisons. Premorbid attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, and depression were associated with worse cognitive or behavioral scores at multiple times throughout the study, while a premorbid headache disorder or history of concussion was less often associated with outcomes.
"In conclusion, we did not find compelling evidence that cumulative head impacts across four years of play are associated with neurocognitive function in youth tackle football players," the authors write. "Over time, neurocognitive performance appears to be influenced by comorbid medical diagnoses more than by repetitive head impacts."