How football affects the brain

New research indicates that brain damage can occur in football players in the absence of concussion.

Hirad and colleagues (2019) used MRI to measure the structural changes that occur in an athlete’s brain from a single season of football. They found stereotyped patterns of injury to a critical part of the brain, the midbrain. The injury was present even in players who never exhibited signs or symptoms of concussion.

The tool below provides a visualization of how force loading during football affects brain structure.

If you or your child play contact sports and use an accelerometer, please Join the Open Brain Project to learn how you can upload data from your device to our consortium.

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Fig. 1


Fig. 1

Interactive model of data from Figure 1 in Hirad and colleagues (2019). Visualization of spatial distribution of head hits in 38 collegiate football players in a season of play. The color and length of each line is scaled by the log of the count of hits at that location.

Fig. 6
Run model

Interactive model of data from Figure 6 in Hirad and colleagues (2019). The 3D model shown here is a graphical representation of how force loading from head hits during football (practice and games) is related to differences between damage to the left and right hemispheres of the brain.