DHA as a preventive measure in contact sports


Concern regarding the number of mild traumatic brain injuries and its associated long-term neurological damage in players of contact sports is raising. Among American football players (and athletes in other sports such as ice hockey), brain trauma may be less the result of violent collisions that cause concussions than the cumulative effect of repetitive head impacts; American football players can experience hundreds of non-concussive hits during a single season.

A report from the American National Football League showed that retired players were 20 times more likely to receive a diagnosis of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or other memory-related impairments. The number of head impacts on the playing field has been linked with cognitive problems in ex-footballers, which is not unexpected given that repetitive mild traumatic brain injuries have a cumulative impact in the longer term. A recent research has shown that American football players only show modest deficits on the cognitive tasks, however their brains had to work a lot harder to achieve the same results as the non-footballers (this abnormal brain activity can only be observed doing laboratory tests).

Neurofilaments are a group of structural proteins that occur exclusively in neurons, but there is a blood test that reflects their condition and serves to measure the severity degree of axonal injuries (an axon is the prolongation of a neuron that conducts impulses to other neurons) and to predict the neurological outcomes and the effect of the treatments. American football players are exposed to head impacts which result in elevations in this blood test, an objective measure of neuronal damage.

Supplementation with DHA over the course of a season of American football reduces these elevations of the marker of axonal injury. So, DHA could have a neuroprotective effect in these athletes and could be used as a preventive measure.




DHA may facilitate healing after brain trauma

A traumatic brain injury is a brain injury caused by an external physical force. The resulting damage can be confined to one area of the brain or involve more than one area, and de[...]