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New Research Points to Brain Injuries in College Football

Defensive back Dwayne Gratz #27 (Connecticut) lands on his head while tackling wide receiver Conner Vernon #82 (Duke) during the 2013 Senior Bowl.


Defensive back Dwayne Gratz #27 (Connecticut) lands on his head while tackling wide receiver Conner Vernon #82 (Duke) during the 2013 Senior Bowl. Photograph by Michael Chang/Getty Images

As the National Football League continues to face scrutiny and litigation over concussions, new evidence shows that brain injuries may be a problem at the collegiate level too. According to a study published today in PLOS One, college football players who sustain hits to the head may experience long-term brain damage even if they aren’t concussed.

Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic used blood tests, brain scans, and cognitive and other tests to assess brain trauma in 67 college football players over the course of the 2011 season. Although none of the players experienced concussions, blood tests showed that the 5 players who absorbed the hardest hits had elevated levels of an antibody linked to brain damage. These players then underwent brain scans at the University of Rochester Medical Center. When the scans were analyzed in a double-blind process, researchers found abnormalities that were predicted by the presence of the antibody.