Aug 14, 2018
To Play or Not

Josh, MA, ATC, CSCS, CES, PES, and Shagra Stone, CES, PES, two athletic trainers who run the website Stone Athletic Medicine, recently published an article expressing their thoughts on whether they will allow their six-year-old son to ever play tackle football. They have ultimately decided to not allow him to suit up.

Their primary concern is the potential for head injuries.

“From the peewees to the pros, football exacts a toll on the body,” they write. “Injuries are always part of the game. We expect sore muscles, broken bones, and torn ligaments, and these injuries can be repaired. We do so much to keep our kids healthy, and yet we put a helmet on them and tell them to go play hard! And this is after years’ worth of studies on the dangers of head injuries.”

In particular, they discuss the risk of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is believed to be caused by repeated contact to the head.

“Our 6-year-old son is obsessed with football and wants to play,” the Stones write. “Unfortunately, the studies coming out surrounding CTE are concerning, to say the least. The latest research reveals how dangerous football is for kids, whose brains are being damaged even without suffering from concussions.”

The Stones cite a 2017 study by Julie Stamm, PhD, LAT, ATC, Associate Lecturer in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Wisconsin, that found those who started playing tackle football before 12 were more likely to suffer behavior problems, cognitive impairment, and depression. They also cite a 2017 study by Ann McKee, MD, Professor of Neurology and Pathology and Director of Neuropathology Core at Boston University, that looked at the donated brains of football players. Dr. McKee’s investigation found CTE in the brains of 88 percent of the players–21 percent of the high school players, 91 percent of the college players, and 99 percent of professional players.

The authors mention that their home state of Illinois recently passed the CTE Prevention Act, which bans tackle football for players under 12 years old. Similar legislation has been proposed in California, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York.

Image by C Watts.

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