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Is Football Too Dangerous for Kids?

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While it may be fun to watch your little guy suit up for peewee football, one brain specialist has serious concerns about your kid's safety on the gridiron.

football player kid

Brain-imaging specialist, psychiatrist and bestselling author Daniel G. Amen, M.D, conducted a study of retired NFL players. The results showed that one half of them are currently overweight or obese and have been limited in their current workout activity because of the physical damage they suffered during their playing days.

As if that weren't enough, Amen's study also found that it's common for a retired NFL player currently in his 50s to have the brain of someone in his 80s.

Wearing the proper sports equipment -- such as protective helmets -- is key, Amen says in an interview with CYInterview.com. "I think we have no love for the brain in our society," he says. "That's just clearly evident [in] how we cheer [during] ultimate-fighting matches or when someone has a really bad hit on the football field."

But Amen has further advice for parents who have children who want to play football at all costs. He suggests having them screened for the apolipoprotein E4 gene. People with that gene who receive a head injury are at a significantly higher risk for developing Alzheimer's Disease.

So how do we know if the injuries our children get on the court or in the field will lead to brain damage -- damage that can affect the parts of the brain that control emotion, rage, sexuality and even breathing? According to Dr. Cara Natterson, long-term effects are usually associated with repeated concussions.

momlogic: How do you know if your child has suffered a concussion that is truly damaging and will have long-term effects?
Dr. Natterson: "There aren't many studies specifically [done] on children, but the lessons being learned from adult studies are being applied to kids -- especially teenagers. Among pediatricians, the importance of staying out of sports and play until the concussion is completely healed has been emphasized. This is because repeat concussions seem to have cumulative effects and result in increased vulnerability to additional injury. While no one completely agrees upon when it's safe to return to play, everyone agrees that the child should be completely symptom-free -- at rest and during play; that he or she should have a neurological examination that shows normal results; and if an image -- such as a CT or MRI -- is performed, it should look normal."

ml: How do you know if your child has suffered a concussion?
Dr. N: "The definition of 'concussion' is 'a trauma-induced alteration in mental status that may or may not involve a loss of consciousness.' There are many different scales used to measure the severity of a concussion. Certainly a concussion with loss of consciousness is almost always more severe than one without."

ml: Are there certain sports that are more dangerous than others?
Dr. N: "According to a review of pediatric-sports-related concussions published in the Journal Pediatrics in 2006, nearly all athletic endeavors pose some risk of concussive injury. Among the more commonly played high-school sports, football and ice hockey have the highest incidence of concussion, followed by soccer, wrestling, basketball, field hockey, baseball, softball and volleyball."

ml: Are non-contact sports like gymnastics or cheerleading just as dangerous?
Dr. N: "Non-contact sports like cheerleading and gymnastics aren't necessarily as likely to result in concussion, but, by the same token, they aren't exempt from risk, either. The Pediatrics article also said that, in certain sports, the risk of injury depends upon the position played, and that in most sports, higher rates of concussion are seen during games (compared with practices) -- except possibly in volleyball and cheerleading."

ml: How can parents protect their kids from developing CTE and still allow them to participate in sports?
Dr. N: "I think that is really the key question. Every sport has some risks; certain sports just have more of them. Helmets are used with much greater frequency these days. (Remember when we all skied without them? Not so long ago ....) And they are designed with greater sophistication. Protective measures are increasing in many sports, from the rules of play to the actual equipment worn by players. I think that all parents need to be aware of the risk of concussion, particularly in contact sports, and should weigh those risks as they decide which sports to choose for their children."

Extreme measures -- or responsible parenting? Tell us what you think. 


next: Girl Suffers from Sleeping Beauty Syndrome
13 comments so far | Post a comment now
steve February 16, 2010, 1:11 PM

The game could be safer, protecting the skullbase where CTE has been documented in boxers, may be as simple as orthopedically aligning the jaw prior to the construction of a corrective mouth guard. This ADA approved protocol has now been found to reduce concussion and its symptoms in H.S. age athletes. www.mahercor.com has new published peer reviewed data that supports the pre season prior to play evaluation used by the N.E. Patriots and under review by the Judiciary committee overseeing NFL head injury.

steve February 16, 2010, 1:15 PM

The game could be safer, protecting the skullbase where CTE has been documented in boxers, may be as simple as orthopedically aligning the jaw prior to the construction of a corrective mouth guard. This ADA approved protocol has now been found to reduce concussion and its symptoms in H.S. age athletes. www.mahercor.com has new published peer reviewed data that supports the pre season prior to play evaluation used by the N.E. Patriots and under review by the Judiciary committee overseeing NFL head injury.

Anonymous February 16, 2010, 5:18 PM

Hello,

I’m a mother of a 16year old son who loves football and basketball.

His last season he had suffered his 2nd GRADE 3 CONCUSSION in a 11 month period.

He was being told that if he got one more concussion, he would never be able to play sports again. I started to do major research on concussions and mouth guards when I came across your website. My son was fitted for a Maher mouth guard right before the football season begun. In the first game he was hit very hard and as a mom.I was holding my breath to see if he had to come out of the game. He got right up and continued playing. After the game I asked him about that hit and he said “Mom I can’t believe I didn’t feel a thing”

Which ,as the season continued, he said it has helped unbelievable! I have parents coming to talk to me when their child gets a concussion to see what I have learned and what steps for protection I have taken. I truly believe that the Maher mouth guard is 100% the reason my son can continue to play sports. Thank you!

Roseann Taylor

Lombard , IL

story links

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paula-duffy/the-nfl-can-help-prevent_b_351212.html

Golf Clubs September 14, 2010, 10:39 AM

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jenny January 22, 2011, 1:07 AM

Well, I could not agree on this topic, I played football in fourth grade all the way through college, so I played continuously for over 13 years, and football is a violent sport . Now if you think it is too violent and then move on and find something else because there are hundreds of great sports that are that are less dangerous and are not physcial damage involved with them. Now, I think for all of you who claim to have the 3 point football and positions are all to change the rules and equipment, unless the rules of the game, just give it a rest and keep your ideas to yourself too. Speaking for myself as a former offensive lineman who has had two surgeries to have complete reconstructive knee and suffered two concussions, but they still manage to survive and prosper in society, football post, and proudly I might add. It only hurts and makes me sick to hear people talk about sports people say that love, but never had the courage to step on the field i have write full article at scraps para orkut. I know the pain and suffering of this great sport brings and I’m not trying to ease the pain of these men who have suffered these concussions, but they knew the price you can afford when they started playing, and from the first day one day, players are taught to never give rise to the head, but what happens if. That said, anyone who can help these players injured in any way they should, but trying to change the game itself is a simple-minded foolishness, because football has come a long way, but has not yet become the sport more popular in the United States playing with feather pillows and soft, because in football is based on controlled violence and will continue in this way.

deafness and hearing loss February 27, 2011, 2:16 AM

Keep working ,remarkable job!

Lauren March 13, 2011, 3:15 AM

Boys love football but no doubt there are dangers involved, like concussions which can turn out ugly. The right practice I guess can prevent many unpleasant situations. ooma

Giselle Woolum March 16, 2011, 2:41 AM

I got what you mean , appreciate it for putting up.

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