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Rugby players lose cognitive function and blood flow to the brain over one season, study shows

BMJ 2021; 374 doi: (Published 02 September 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;374:n2161
  1. Luke Taylor, freelance journalist
  1. Portsmouth, UK

The brain function and cognitive ability of a team of rugby players declined over the course of a single season, a UK study has found.

A team of professional Rugby Union players were less able to remember, carry out mental tasks, and formulate ideas as the season went on, adding to growing evidence that head collisions in some sports could be making players more susceptible to neurodegenerative diseases in later life.1

The study, published in the Journal of Experimental Physiology, also found that players had reduced blood flow to the brain, particularly those who experienced more collisions. “We’ve provided a sniff of a potential underlying mechanism that could explain accelerated cognitive decline in later life,” said Damian Bailey, the study’s lead author and professor of physiology and biochemistry at the University of South Wales.

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