PHOENIX (KSAZ) - A new study says it's not concussions, but rather repetitive hits to the head, that cause traumatic brain injury in football players.
A team of researchers examined the brains of four teenage athletes who either died from their injuries or committed suicide, and found that it was an accumulation of smaller hits to the head which caused their injuries.
The findings are important, because of the attention that has been put on preventing concussions. The findings conclude that in the end, there may not be a way to fully prevent traumatic brain injuries from happening on the field.
While people may not be able to fully prevent them in football or other sports, researchers in Phoenix are working to help doctors, trainers, and even the average person to better recognize when someone has suffered a traumatic brain injury.
They also have a name now for a posturing associated with such injuries, called fencing response. Dr. Jonathan Lifshitz with Phoenix Children's Hospital explains.
"Abnormal posturing in the way you hold your arms that occurs as the result of an impact force applied to the head," said Dr. Lifshitz.
The term was coined by researchers at Barrow Neurological at Phoenix Children's Hospital, including Dr. Lifshitz. His team spent a lot of time scouring websites like YouTube, looking for videos that show players suffering severe blows to the head, and then studied their response immediately after they went down.
"We found that in instances where there was a clear hit to the head, that 66 percent of individuals who then were falling to the ground were showing the fencing response," said Dr. Lifshitz, who said the term stems from the on-guard response one might see during a fencing match.
It's something people might see in other sports, like boxing or mixed martial arts, but the goal of the research was to better educate athletic trainers, and even coaches and parents who are not medically trained, to identify when someone has suffered a traumatic brain injury.
"A brain injury is a brain injury, but the fencing response is a visible indicator that gets rid of any possible doubt that the individual has suffered a brain injury, and that injury needs to be tended to my medical personnel," said Dr. Lifshitz.