OPINION | Phil Paleologos: The Risk of Youth Football
Do you believe researchers at VA Boston Healthcare System and Boston University School of Medicine, who claim they've found that playing tackle before age 12 could easily lead to brain disease?
They discovered that among 211 football players who were diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy after death, those players who began tackle football before age 12 had an earlier onset of cognitive, behavior and mood symptoms by an average of 13 years!
Young kids who are exposed to repetitive head jolts in tackle football may have reduced resiliency to brain diseases later in life, including CTE. Doesn't it make sense that children, whose brains are rapidly developing, should not be banging their heads hundreds of times per season?
Youth football and CTE is a real dilemma for parents. Organizers of youth football leagues, as well as administrators of schools with football programs, should ask the same question.
Growing concerns about liability should be part of their financial calculation. America's largest youth football league, Pop Warner, settled a $5 million lawsuit in 2016 with the family of a former player from Wisconsin who joined the league at 11 and played for four years. He committed suicide at 25, and an examination of his brain revealed CTE. But this isn't primarily a money problem.
Consider the science behind CTE. Repeated blows to the head cause the buildup of an abnormal protein that degenerates brain tissue. Areas of the brain vulnerable to CTE include those that govern cognition, working memory, abstract reasoning, planning, emotional control and aggression. CTE has also been linked to the onset of ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, later in life.
So parents, as you mull the pros and cons of allowing your young children to play tackle football, keep this information in mind.
Phil Paleologos is the host of the Phil Paleologos Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @PhilPaleologos. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.