Oslo Sports Trauma Research Center

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Information about project titled 'REPIMPACT: Repetitive subconcussive head impacts – brain alterations and clinical consequences'

REPIMPACT: Repetitive subconcussive head impacts – brain alterations and clinical consequences

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Project status: Ongoing
Project manager: Stian Bahr Sandmo
Supervisor(s): Roald Bahr, Inga Katharina Koerte
Coworker(s): Ofer Pasternak, Nir Sochen, Stephan Swinnen, Peter Filipcik, Alexander Leemans


Background: Recent evidence suggests that not only concussions, but also subconcussive head impacts may lead to brain alterations and clinical impairment. Football, where repetitive head impacts are commonly observed due to actively heading the ball, provides an accessible model for understanding their effects. Importantly, potentially putting millions of players at risk, there is an urgent need to clarify the effects of such impacts in youth football.  

 Aims: 1) To detect brain alterations due to repetitive head impacts; 2) to characterize associated clinical consequences; 3) to develop diagnostic biomarkers of clinical outcome; and (4) to quantify head-impact exposure and identify risk factors for clinical deficiencies. 

 Methods: A multisite prospective cohort study, having followed a cohort of (1) youth elite football players and (2) non-contact sport athletes (14-17 yrs); this allows for the investigation of potential group differences with respect to brain development. Over the course of 12 months, the participants have been evaluated three times: 1) At the beginning of the season, 2) at the end of the season, and 3) before the next season. The protocol included MRI, neuropsychological tests, balance tests, and blood/saliva samples.

 Implications: REPIMPACT will provide important insights into the potentially deleterious effects of heading the ball in youth football, thereby shedding important light on a highly controversial topic. This knowledge will, in turn, lead to new horizons of research for the early diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of long‑term consequences of brain injury.