The Los Angeles Times (11/14, Morin) reports, "Soccer players who repeatedly strike the ball with their heads may be causing measurable damage to their brains, even if they never suffer a concussion, according to a" research letter published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. "By examining brain scans of a dozen professional soccer players from Germany, researchers found a pattern of damage that strongly resembled that of patients with mild traumatic brain injury [TBI]."
The Time (11/13, Sifferlin) "Healthland" blog reports, "In the study, the researchers compared brain scans of 12 male soccer players from German elite-level soccer clubs who had not experienced a concussion, to brain scans of 11 competitive swimmers who had similarly never experienced repetitive brain trauma." Investigators "used high-resolution diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), which looks at the brain microscopically and is much more effective at catching white matter changes than the standard MRI." The study authors "found surprising alterations in the white matter that were 'consistent with findings observed in patients with mild TBI, and suggesting possible demyelination [nerve disorder].'"
HealthDay (11/14, Gordon) reports that the study's senior author "noted that the researchers don't know what caused the changes in the white matter of the soccer players, only that there were changes. 'It could be from heading the ball, or due to impact of hitting other players or from sudden acceleration,' she said."
MedPage Today (11/14, Neale) reports, "As an alternate explanation," the study authors "noted that 'soccer players showed increased axial diffusivity in the absence of increased radial diffusivity limited to the corpus callosum, possibly resulting from specialized training or neuroinflammation.'"