Repetitive hits to the head, even those that don't qualify as concussions, can cause serious long-term brain damage.
Jane Schulte's son plays football for O'Gorman High School. While she worries for young players at times, she also believes recent awareness has teams better prepared.
"I put a lot of trust in the trainers on the sidelines that they can diagnose something right away and even a coach if they're educated in that too," Schulte said.
But new research shows football players don't have to suffer a concussion to suffer brain-damaging effects.
"You only have one head, one brain and it's very important to you so take care of it," Sanford Sports Medicine director Dr. Michael Bergeron said.
Bergeron says new research is evolving rapidly when it comes to head injuries and unfortunately the damaging effects can last much longer than previously thought.
"We're learning more and we're getting more and more information to indicate that this is more serious, more longer-lasting and likely to be having an effect on, potentially for a long time," Bergeron said.
High school football is one sport where kids take repetitive hits to the head. The new research suggests the same protein released from the brain during a concussion is also released into the bloodstream when smaller, but multiple hits, occur over a period of time.
A hard hit to the head can certainly cause this protein to show up in the bloom stream. But Dr. Bergeron says it's not the only thing that can cause it to appear. He believes the study is a piece of the puzzle, but it's not the Holy Grail.
"It's not the whole picture. It's certainly something to raise our awareness and we need to pay attention to this, but it might be an innocent effect of just playing the game," Bergeron said.
Bergeron works closely with the Department of Defense and says the number one concern of the army right now is the long term effects of traumatic brain injuries.