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What a Blow to the Brain Can Do

While the NFL decides whether or not to have a football season this year, one thing that many people don't know is that the main arguments are not over money, they're over concussions. Male football players get hit in the head the most, but female athletes get concussions too--but they get different symptoms when they do.

in addition to headache, high school girl athletes were more likely to complain of neurological symptoms like sensitivity to light or sleeplessness, while their male peers are more likely to report issues like loss of memory or balance control. Researcher Sue Saliba says, "We found a difference in the symptom type, and that's never been documented before." However, there was no difference in the students' recovery time. And it's not a small problem: There are more than 1.6 million sport-related concussions reported each year in the United States, and more than 5% of participants in high school contact sports are affected by concussions. Are students hurting their brains just when they need them the most?

Researchers are starting to figure out how the brain's memory center repairs itself following severe trauma, which may explain why it is harder to bounce back after multiple head injuries. Scientists studied learning and memory problems in mice who were unable to create new nerve cells in the brain’s memory area, the hippocampus, following brain trauma. Biologist Steven G. Kernie says, "Traumatic brain injury (TBI) has received a lot of attention recently because of the recognition that both military personnel and football players suffer from debilitating brain injuries. We have discovered that neural stem cells in the brain’s memory area become activated by injury and remodel the area with newly generated nerve cells. We also found that the activation of these stem cells is required for recovery." Maybe some day we will be able to insert stem cells into the brains of these people, effecting a cure.

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