The teenage brain is special. Less plastic than a child’s developing brain, but not yet with all of the executive functions of an adult noggin.
And that makes them more vulnerable to long-term effects of head injury, especially when it comes to sports-related concussions, according to research.
In soccer, hockey, or rugby, the top-front of the head usually receives the brunt of the blow. That region is where the all-important executive function areas are forming for teenagers: The frontal cortex.
To learn more, researchers recruited 96 male sports participants aged nine through to 26 — half of whom had had a diagnosed concussion in the past year.
Using a battery of memory, attention, motor tests and EEG monitors, the researchers found that all of the concussed athletes showed reduced working memory.
However, the adolescents had the most cognitive impairment, even if months had passed since their injury and they reported feeling just fine. The findings are reported in the Brain Injury journal.
So for secondary school athletes, a rough hit could lead to problems lasting longer than a bad headache.
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