A study has established a link between abnormal brain structure and football in college players who had been diagnosed with concussions and those who had been playing for years.
According to the study, the players had smaller hippocampuses compared to those who never played football or played for fewer years.
"Boys hear about the long-term effect on guys when they're retired from football, but this shows that 20-year-olds might be having some kind of effect," said Patrick Bellgowan, the study's senior author from the Laureate Institute for Brain Research in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The research echoes concern whether younger players in contact sports are threatened by Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The symptoms of CTE, which tend to set in years after the last traumas, often include memory loss, aggression and dementia.
"People try to understand why some NFL players have what looks like Alzheimer's in their forties," said Dr. Jeffrey Bazarian, who was not involved with the new research. "How did they get there? I think this study points out the early stages of that."
"Maybe there is something going on early on," he said. "None of these players were feeling bad but their brain structure isn't normal."