Study: Small hits could pose big risk for athletes

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The New York Institute of Technology men's lacrosse team participated in a science project last season, looking at hits to the players' heads…and the results are in.

The NYIT Bears played and won 13 games wearing mouth pieces as part of the scientific study.

The mouth piece houses a senor that measures the force of hits players took in games and practices, and the effect those hits had on their brains.  It's part of a season long study done by the school's Center for Sports Medicine.

The NYIT study wasn't aimed just at the big hits, it looked at all hits to the head.  Doctors say the smaller hits that look and feel like no big deal, can cause long-term damage when suffered over and over again.

Newsday: NYIT researchers find 'subtle' cognitive declines in lacrosse players

Dr. Hallie Zweibel conducted the study and got 10 players to volunteer to use the mouth pieces.  The sensors recorded any impact to the head greater than 5Gs, the force of a typical roller coaster.

To see that response, doctors tested the players' memory, balance and reaction times. The players took those tests before, during and after the season.

Dr. Zweibel said the average player in the study suffered 507 hits, but Midfielder Brian Heurter took nearly 950. 

Attackman Lenny Innamorato took the most hits of all, 1,726 and 10 of them were greater then 80Gs.

Despite the hits, Lenny said he felt fine during the season.  Dr. Zweibel says that's the danger with the smaller hits, the effects are not immediate.

The players in the study say the findings won't keep them from playing lacrosse, but it will change how they play.

The researchers plan to continue the study with the men's lacrosse team next season and also did similar research.

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