Worry over brain damage from concussions is leading many parents to keep their kids off the football field, and a new study seems to say their concern is well-founded.

According to the results, presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, brain development in young football players can be disrupted after just a single season.

At issue is a natural process called grey matter "pruning," in which the brain's unused connections are culled away. This clearing of the underbrush, so to speak, makes brains work more effectively.

However, impact sports like football can impact this process. Gowtham Krishnan Murugesan, M.S., research assistant in the Department of Radiology at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, explains: "This research demonstrates that playing a season of contact sports may affect normal gray matter pruning in high school and youth football players."

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