HealthDay News — Several factors, including repeated head or neurological injury and obesity, may contribute to the risk of stroke among young football players, according to a study published in the Journal of Child Neurology.

“Organized childhood tackle football in the United States can begin at age 5 years, leading to potentially decades of repeated brain injuries,” Jared R. Brosch, MD, and Meredith R, Golomb, MD, of the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, wrote.

They described three cases of adolescents who experienced ischemic strokes linked with playing football and reviewed the available literature on stroke associated with childhood sports, particularly football.

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Brosch and Golomb found that in all three cases, the ischemic infarction was temporally associated with practicing or playing full-contact football. Several mechanisms that may have contributed to pediatric stroke after football injury included hyperventilation, use of anabolic steroids, consumption of energy drinks, repeated neurological injury and increased obesity. For children with known cerebrovascular abnormalities or stroke risk factors, football should be considered a high-risk activity.

“Further work is needed to understand how repeated high-impact large-force trauma from childhood football affects the immature central nervous system,” they wrote.

Brosch JR, Golomb MR. J Child Neurol. 2011; 26:1493-1498.