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Changes in the central nervous system in football players: an MRI study.

Acta Radiologica 2024 May 21
BACKGROUND: Football (soccer) is the world's most popular team sport.

PURPOSE: To comprehensively examine the brain in football (soccer) players, with the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: The study involved 65 football players and 62 controls. The MR examinations were performed using MR 1.5-T system (Optima MR 360; GE Medical Systems). The examinations were carried out in the 3D Bravo, CUBE, FSEpropeller, and diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) sequences. The 1HMRS signal was obtained from the volume of interest in the frontal and occipital lobes on both sides.

RESULTS: The present study, based on structural MRI, shows some changes in the brains of the group of football players. The findings show asymmetry of the ventricular system in four football players, arachnoid cysts in the parieto-occipital region, and pineal cysts. NAA/Cr concentration in the right frontal lobe was lower in the football players than in the controls, and the Glx/Cr concentration in the right occipital lobe was higher. The apparent diffusion coefficient value is lower in football players in the occipital lobes.

CONCLUSION: Playing football can cause measurable changes in the brain, known to occur in patients diagnosed with traumatic brain injury. The present findings fill the gap in the literature by contributing evidence showing that playing football may lead to changes in the brain, without clinical symptoms of concussion.

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