(HealthDay News) – Soccer players have significant differences in white matter integrity compared to swimmers, according to a small study published in the Nov. 14 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Inga K. Koerte, MD, from Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues utilized high-resolution diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to evaluate 12 concussion-naive soccer players and a comparison cohort of 11 swimmers.

The researchers found that soccer players exhibited increased radial diffusivity in the right orbitofrontal white matter, the genu and anterior portions of the corpus callosum, association fibers involving bilateral inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus, bilateral optic radiation, and bilateral anterior cingulum, right anterior, right superior, and bilateral posterior corona radiata, right anterior limb of the internal capsule, right external capsule, and right superior frontal gyrus. Compared with swimmers, soccer players had higher axial diffusivity. There was significantly higher radial and axial diffusivity in soccer players in cluster analysis, but age and years of training did not correlate significantly with diffusivity values.

“Although only participants without previous symptomatic concussion were included, advanced DTI revealed widespread increase in radial diffusivity in soccer players, consistent with findings observed in patients with mild traumatic brain injury, and suggesting possible demyelination,” the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the publishing, diagnostics, and pharmaceutical industries.

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