Mapping default mode connectivity alterations following a single season of subconcussive impact exposure in youth football

Jesse C. DeSimone, Elizabeth M. Davenport, Jillian Urban, Yin Xi, James M. Holcomb, Mireille E. Kelley, Christopher T. Whitlow, Alexander K. Powers, Joel D. Stitzel, Joseph A. Maldjian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Repetitive head impact (RHI) exposure in collision sports may contribute to adverse neurological outcomes in former players. In contrast to a concussion, or mild traumatic brain injury, “subconcussive” RHIs represent a more frequent and asymptomatic form of exposure. The neural network-level signatures characterizing subconcussive RHIs in youth collision-sport cohorts such as American Football are not known. Here, we used resting-state functional MRI to examine default mode network (DMN) functional connectivity (FC) following a single football season in youth players (n = 50, ages 8–14) without concussion. Football players demonstrated reduced FC across widespread DMN regions compared with non-collision sport controls at postseason but not preseason. In a subsample from the original cohort (n = 17), players revealed a negative change in FC between preseason and postseason and a positive and compensatory change in FC during the offseason across the majority of DMN regions. Lastly, significant FC changes, including between preseason and postseason and between in- and off-season, were specific to players at the upper end of the head impact frequency distribution. These findings represent initial evidence of network-level FC abnormalities following repetitive, non-concussive RHIs in youth football. Furthermore, the number of subconcussive RHIs proved to be a key factor influencing DMN FC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2529-2545
Number of pages17
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jun 1 2021


  • concussion
  • connectivity
  • fMRI
  • football
  • subconcussion
  • youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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