Repetitive hits 'heighten risk of concussion' for athletes
Repetitive impacts to the head are a larger factor in concussive brain injury than single events, a study by Trinity College Dublin has found.
The finding has been hailed as a significant advance in our understanding of mild head trauma.
It comes amid an increased focus in recent years on the dangers of concussion in rugby, GAA and combat sports.
According to the Trinity researchers, it is also a very common injury in children and young adults.
Dr Matthew Campbell, assistant professor at Trinity, said their project challenged the theory that repetitive head trauma would induce damage to small blood vessels in the brain that could be shown with MRI-based brain scans.
Rugby players and MMA fighters were among those to take part in the study, which was undertaken by the Trinity-led Concussion Research Interest Group (CRIG).
It used newly developed technologies to confirm the number and severity of head impacts that would lead to the appearance of "leaky" blood vessels within the brain.
The study reported repetitive impacts to the head, not necessarily just concussions, are likely able to induce changes to the micro-vessels of the brain.
Experts have encouraged sporting organisations to take into account the findings when considering rules and regulations.
Professor Mick Molloy, former chief medical officer of World Rugby and a co-author of the study, said it highlighted the critical importance of continued efforts to study the underlying effects of concussive brain injuries in all sports.
"It is imperative that the governing bodies take note of these findings and work together to protect athletes now and in the future," said Prof Molloy.