How Does Playing Football Affect Our Brain?

People talk a lot about the high salaries that football players earn. But, very few people take into consideration the high amount of risks that this career path presents. Football players get to experience a lot of injuries, sometimes to the head. How can this sport affect the brain, though?

Studies are showing that this sport can affect the brain, even when the player did not get a head injury or concussion. In what ways is participating in this sport affecting the brain? Say the writer “write my paper” and take care of your health by taking a look at some of the results of the studies already carried out.

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)

A study carried out by the Boston University CTE center on 200 dead football players showed that 90% of the players had chronic traumatic encephalopathy. CTE is a condition that results from taking several hits to the head.

CTE describes a physical change in the brain. Athletes generally and other people who have had a head injury or concussion experience these changes. However, CTE is usually not recognized until after death, even though the symptoms manifest when they are alive. 

When this condition gets worse, it will result in symptoms such as learning difficulties, headaches, confusion, memory loss, and depression. These symptoms are also consistent with the symptoms of other ailments, which makes it challenging to diagnose CTE. 

Further research into the effect on football on the brain shows that it affects the children and not just professional or college level players. The study was carried out on children by tracking the changes during football season with a special headgear. The results show that even children without any outward signs of injury have similar transformations as a traumatic brain injury.  

Fractional Anisotropy

Diffusion tensor imaging monitored the white matter structure changes in the brain at the beginning and end of the football season. This test checks that fractional anisotropy (FA). FA describes how water molecules move on the white matter axons. 

If the molecules move uniformly, the white matter is healthy. There is a problem if the water molecules do not move uniformly shown in the decreased FA. This problem indicates that there is head trauma. 

The studies show a correlation between how much the boys’ heads were struck and the decreased FA level. This result means that playing football can reduce the health of the white matter in the brain progressively.

More Risk for the Young

A further study done by the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston indicates that there might be more risk for those that start playing football at a young age. The study compared the age the players started playing and the amount of damage caused to their brain.

It was determined that players that start playing before they were 12 were at a higher risk of getting traumatic brain injuries. Children’s heads are large while there neck was not yet as stiff as that of an adult. So, they are more at risk than an adult will be

Ann McKee, director of the Boston University Chronic Encephalopathy Center, had recommended before those children below 14 should stop playing football. It means that they are less likely to get contact injuries from the ball or other teammates.

Further Research

Many studies have been done on the effect of playing football and CTE. However, the results are not yet totally conclusive. For instance, in the CTE study, most of the players used are people whose families already suspected signs of CTE. 

These studies have, however, been able to generate more interest and, as a result, further research into the condition. Hopefully, the research will also birth forth better CTE tests so that people can be diagnosed and treated while they are still alive. 

Recommendations for Players

Football coaches should ensure that they pay close attention to the health of their players and not just on winning. One of the healthy practices is to reduce the number of contact players has during training. This measure would ensure that there is less impact to the brain. 

Players should also wear all the protective gear for the sport. The time spent on the field can also be reduced to reduce situations that led to impacts on the head.  Players with symptoms of a concussion should be medically examined before being sent to the field and not just asked to “shake it off.” 


Football players run a high risk of developing CTE and other brain-related problems due to the sport. Therefore, the considerable pay they get is compensation for the high risks they put themselves in every time they get on the field.

About Marcelo Villa

Marcelo is an associate editor at The Sports Daily, and has covered the San Diego Chargers for Bleacher Report. He also writes for Sportsdirect Inc.