If you, like me, are an avid spectator of American football, there is once again worrisome news coming from researchers studying the effects of head trauma on the development of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). For parents with children already playing youth football, the results of a new study from the CTE Center at the Boston University School of Medicine are particularly alarming:

A new study published in Annals of Neurology found kids who start playing tackle football before age 12 will, on average, develop cognitive and emotional symptoms associated with the degenerative brain disease CTE much earlier than those who start later…

A new study published in Annals of Neurology looked at the brains of 246 deceased amateur and professional football players. Two-hundred-eleven of them had the degenerative brain disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, which can be caused by repetitive hits to the head. The study showed kids who began playing tackle football before the age of 12 began showing cognitive and emotional symptoms associated with CTE an average of 13 years earlier than those who started after 12.

The study also showed that for each year earlier kids begin playing football, their symptoms will progressively show up about two and a half years sooner.


A.J. Perez allows the study’s lead author a chance to sound the alarm:

“Youth exposure to repetitive head impacts in tackle football may reduce one’s resiliency to brain diseases later in life, including, but not limited to, CTE,” Ann McKee, director of Boston University’s CTE Center and one of the study’s authors, said in a statement to USA TODAY Sports. “It makes common sense that children, whose brains are rapidly developing, should not be hitting their heads hundreds of times per season.”


Last year, we looked at three studies that should have given football boosters trepidation. One paper was published in the middle of last fall’s football season by the same Boston University experts:

At the time of autopsy in 202 subjects, CTE was found in:

— 0 of 2 pre-high school youth football players.

— 3 of 14 high school players (21%).

— 48 of 53 college players (91%).

— 9 of 14 semi-professional players (64%).

— 7 of 8 Canadian Football League players (91%).

— 110 of 111 National Football League players (99%).


We’ll end this post the same way we ended “On Second Thought… (Part 2)” on The PediaBlog last October, with a simple question:

Knowing what we now know about football and CTE, would you allow your son to play the sport?


I answered that question in the way my own parents would have in “Can I Play Football?” the following month:

Football? Say it with me: “Fuggedaboutit.”


Read more on the subject of concussions in youth sports on The PediaBlog here.


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