In recent years, both popular media and news reports have brought attention to the possible long-term effects experienced by athletes who suffer the trauma of a sports concussion time and again throughout their careers. Researchers at Boston University have developed the Head Impact and Trauma Surveillance Study (HITSS) to learn more about how the effects of a sports concussion can have a lasting impact on an athlete.
Long-Term Effects of Repeated Sports Concussion Injuries
The research is clear: there’s a connection between multiple sports concussion incidents and neurological issues down the line. Researchers have yet to fill in the gaps to determine exactly how repeated head impacts can cause long-term damage.
Boston’s study is working to discover how the behavioral changes, memory issues, mood problems, and other neurological problems that many high-impact athletes experience later in life may be related to sports concussion incidents. The study is specifically working to learn more about how soccer and tackle football athletes are affected by repeated impacts to the head.
In addition to discovering more information about the link between sports concussion incidents and long-term neurological issues, the HITSS study will also work to learn more about other factors that may affect the risk of long-term changes.
The study is examining several factors that may increase or decrease the likelihood of long-term negative effects after sports concussions, including vascular risk profile, sleep quality, race, sex, social factors, and substance abuse.
How HITSS Works
Boston University is casting a wide net to reach athletes who have participated in soccer or tackle football at some point in their lives. It doesn’t matter what age athletes were when they participated in soccer or tackle football—HITSS is working to study those who played the sports at any level, from youth leagues up to professional leagues.
Participants must be over 40 years old, as the study is designed to study lasting (not immediate) effects of sports concussion incidents.
The study is fully online, making it easy for former athletes to log their answers to questionnaires. The assessment is designed to be answered once a year. When former athletes sign on to participate in HITSS, they’ll answer questions about their medical history, exposure to repetitive head impacts, and their concussion history.
After providing background information, HITSS participants take tests to measure their memory and cognition. Participants also take behavior and mood assessments.
What Makes HITSS Different?
While studies on sports concussion incidents have grown in recent years, sample sizes have been limited. Most studies on repeated head impacts have focused on professional male athletes. Often, professional athletes have access to resources that could help them fight the long-term effects of repeated head impacts.
People who experienced sports concussion incidents at a young age and did not go on to play professional sports may not experience the same medical care as a professional athlete. HITSS is working to further the body of research on sports concussions, offering valuable insights into how repeated head impacts can affect athletes at all levels.