New study finds repeated head hits are damaging the brain

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC-TV) — We know football players who get concussions are experiencing a brain injury, but what about those who go undiagnosed? A new study out of the University of Rochester targets a specific part of the brain that’s affected by concussion and brain injuries that don’t even show symptoms.

Ryan Paolini played football for eight years. He recalls a time he “might” have had a concussion but was never officially diagnosed.

“One time in a game I got tackled from behind and I hit my head on the turf and my vision went yellow so I’d assume I had a concussion there, but I had the mentality of trying to play through it,” said Paolini.

Jeffrey Bazarian is a professor of emergency medicine and neurology at the University of Rochester. He said one concussion isn’t the real problem.

“The real problem is hitting your head repeatedly, that’s a problem,” said Bazarian.

Bazarian’s new study shows football players damaging a section of their brain called the midbrain after a season of football. The midbrain controls balance, sleep, and head pain. After six months of resting, the damage went away in only half the players.

“The brain probably has some natural ability to recover from this in some people and not in others,” he said.

Paolini said he feels fine now but does worry about all those smaller hits.

“Honestly it’s a little scary when you think about it, but back when I was playing it wasn’t something that I thought about. I just loved the game so much that I just kinda pushed through it and worked past it and didn’t even think about getting hit in the head,” Paolini said.

While one concussion usually triggers an MRI these days, Bazarian, with this new information, is recommending more regular scans even without that more serious incident.

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