Concussion Update: No Football Before Age 12

Research on early childhood concussions leading to brain injury later in life keeps emerging.

In the latest study, researchers found that kids who played tackle football before the age of 12 had cognitive, behavioral, and mood issues significantly earlier than those who started at an older age, as published in the Annals of Neurology.

The study conducted by the Boston University School of Medicine also found that children playing tackle football before age 12 and having suffered concussions or concussion-related symptoms were more prone to CTE—chronic traumatic encephalopathy. CTE is a degenerative brain disease common in athletes, military veterans, and others who have experienced repeated head traumas.

For this study, the medical histories of 246 deceased football players were evaluated.

Researchers questioned friends and family members on symptoms their loved ones experienced, how long and how often they played, and at what age they started playing. Of the 246 players, 211 were found to have CTE following their death.

Child Neurology Consultant’s Dr. Michael Reardon weighed in on this study for a recent parenting piece on Austin360.

“The more often there are blows to the head and the harder they are, the more likely the brain might be affected by that,” said Reardon. Furthermore, he adds, “all evidence that’s mounting points to the idea that having a career in football is hazardous to your health. It’s bad for the brain.”

He cautions that even tackle football in elementary or middle school is not safe as there’s such a difference in body size among players.

In addition to being educated about concussion symptoms, some things a parent can do to help decrease the risk of a serious head injury include:

             Ask coaches to eliminate the amount of direct contact between players during practice drills.

             Encourage your child to alternate between playing offense and defense so their brain gets a break.

             Remind your child to sit out if they have the sensation that they “got their bell rung,” are dizzy between plays, or have blurred vision.

The full article featuring Dr. Reardon’s comments is available right here.

If you have questions or concerns about your child playing football and their risk of a head injury, please contact us for an appointment with one of our specialists.


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