Purdue researchers track football concussions

Researchers are studying the effects of football hits on players' brains.

David MacAnally/Eyewitness News

West Lafayette - Purdue researchers are using high-tech tracking to score points against concussions and brain trauma. One area high school team is yielding surprising results.

We see a big hit on the football field one way, but the research team sees it another. The team is monitoring players on Lafayette Jefferson's football team.

"Our study is intended, originally, to evaluate the effects of concussions," said Dr. Tom Talavage.

But after two seasons, it's found the unintended.

"These individuals are experiencing changes in physiology, particularly in the brain, that suggests some level of injury has occurred, even though they are not exhibiting concussions," Dr. Talavage said.

The changes are measured in the players' MRIs.

"This particular individual had the second most blows to the head over the course of the season. Over 1,800 blows," Dr. Talavage said.

That player's preseason MRI shows normal brain activity while doing visual memory tests. But that changes by midseason, when the doctor says he "had less capacity to perform this task."

But he had no concussion. It's an issue for half the control group.

"One of the people who showed no sign of impairment took a hit recorded at 290 Gs," said researcher Evan Breedlove.

That's ten times the force of a rear-end car crash

"They called me and Joel Ripke in five or six times last year. They were wondering why we didn't have concussions," said player Brandon Stumph.

The good news was that players' MRIs went back to normal after the season.

"Very large collisions don't necessarily cause injuries, but these repeated events seem to accumulate damage," researcher Eric Nauman said.

"I haven't worried about football at all. Just play hard, hit hard. Part of the game," Stumph said.

"I haven't noticed anything. I've been a pretty good student in the past," Ripke said.

To protect the future, Purdue research could lead to new rules on how players make hits and even remove hits from most practices.