A Tough One to Tackle – Football and Brain Health!

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I have a lot of friends whose parents put them into football practice almost as soon as they could walk. It started with tossing the ball around the house and watching games together, getting the hype and passing the football gene down. It’s exciting to see your child be as excited about something as you are… and to see your son playing tackle football like a “real man.”

Would you change your mind about it if you knew how much damage tackle football could cause him? Your first reaction, “Of course not!” You’ve played it and you’re fine, right? Right?!

Okay, a lot of studies are coming out about the head damage that comes with playing tackle football. The NFL denied the connection for a long time… but now, to save face, they have to admit it’s true. So what kind of head damage are we talking?

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is the formal term for a progressive degenerative disease that affects the brain after multiple concussions and trauma. A brain suffering from CTE will lose mass, is liable to atrophy, and deteriorating functions of neurons, which can look like Alzheimer’s, even aging, extreme fatigue, or Parkinson’s disease. Wow… that’s freaky. Oh, but that’s not even the scariest part. The scariest part is you can’t be sure someone has CTE until after they’re dead.

Let’s look at some stats. First a study by Boston University showed how putting a child in football before their teenage years can cause severe behavioral and cognitive problems that will show later in life. This study and even the NFL encourage parents to put children under 13 into flag football instead of tackle.

Also, another study showed that after doing a postmortem on football players, 87% of the brains studied had CTE. 99% of them were NFL players, 21% were high school players, and 91% were college players. “The more professionally someone played, the more severe their head trauma.”

The NFL has held conferences on concussions, set up a confidential report hotline for players, and (get this) sent out a pamphlet with symptoms for family members and players to assess. There is no action in preventing the concussions… they’re just educating them on the topic and leaving the game untouched. It’s like they’ve just accepted that these people’s brains will just have to be wrecked. How does that feel if it’s your son, your husband, or your brain? If you don’t believe this is affecting players, look up the stories of players like Cris Carter and Junior Seau. Do we really want players to have to choose between the sport they love or a healthy brain?

The Ivy League and the Canadian Football League both chose to eliminate tackling at practices. US Football is setting up a 7-on-7 version of football which is said to reduce the risk of head hits. What should the NFL do? Maybe it’s time for tackle to go to rest… and for flag to hit the big scene. I know from living on a college campus that people have just as much fun playing flag as they do with tackle… and it’s just as entertaining to watch.

Do you think the NFL should make changes on how the game is played? Is tackle worth the risk of CTE?

Check out some of the research on CTE:

http://www.protectthebrain.org/Brain-Injury-Research/What-is-CTE-.aspx

Take a look at what the NFL says about it:

http://www.nfl.com/news/story/09000d5d8017cc67/article/nfl-outlines-for-players-steps-taken-to-address-concussions

A.S. Knox
A.S. Knox
Give me good weather, keep me active, and don't touch my tea. I'm just a dark chocolate lover with an eye for adventure and solid typing skills. Current endeavor: tennis.

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