WESTBURY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Many families choose to sign their kids up for lacrosse over football because of their fears of concussions, but researchers say young athletes could be in just as much danger playing lacrosse.
The New York Institute of Technology men’s team won a championship, following a season in which ten of their players volunteered to have their brain functions tracked.
“There was a significant decline in both visual and verbal memory, two aspects of a player’s cognitive ability,” Dr. Hallie Zwibel from the NYIT Center for Sports Medicine said. ”
The players wore mouth guards embedded with sensors that recorded the force of the impact during games and practices. The study found subtle declines following repeated sub-concussive hits, hits which don’t result in a full-on concussion.
Doctors describe your brain as similar to an egg yolk in an egg shell.
“If there’s a force on the outside, the eggshell might stay in tact but the egg will be scrambled,” Zwibel said.
NYIT player Leonardo Innamorato was surprised to discover he registered more than 1,700 hits.
“I remember getting hit on the side of the head, hit out of bounds,” he said. “I got up, and just didn’t know where I was.”
He was unaware that many of the 1,700 hits were measured above 80 Gs. To put that in perspective, Zwibel says it’s equivalent to being in a 40 mile-per-hour car accident while wearing a seat-belt.
Their next study may involve lacrosse women, where the rules of the game differ but stick checking is perfectly legal.
“With the checking you can do it in boy guys and girls,” Patrick Reilly from Lacrosse Unlimited said. “Obviously the men have body checking, the girls do not.”
For now helmets are required in men, but not so in women. Football may have started the discussion on traumatic brain injury, but after NYIT’s lacrosse study they say they’re getting calls from athletic directors of all sports, especially soccer and hockey.
It’s something players and coaches alike can get behind.
“I definitely want sports to be safer, maybe some new technologies will come into play maybe with some better helmets,” Innamorato said.