By Ken Reed

Dr. Robert Cantu, one of the nation’s leading researchers on concussions in sports, has written a new book, along with Mark Hyman, called “Concussions and Our Kids.”

It’s a welcome addition because awareness and understanding of concussions and sub-concussive brain trauma is lacking terribly in this country among youth sports parents and coaches. Our nation’s focus is on concussions at the professional level in the NFL and NHL.

Cantu points out that kids are more likely to get a concussion because their heads are a bigger part of their body than an adult’s head is, and because their necks aren’t as strong during their developmental years.

A 2009-10 study of high school athletes found concussions occurred most often in the following sports (in order): football, hockey, boys’ lacrosse, girls’ soccer, girls’ lacrosse, wrestling, boys’ soccer, girls’ basketball, and boys’ basketball.

Cantu says kids shouldn’t play tackle football before the age of 14. He also thinks body checking in hockey and heading in soccer should be banned before the age of 14. Rational arguments all. But the question is why is 14 a magical age? Children’s bodies and brains are still developing through high school. Based on current research, tackle football, body checking in hockey and heading in soccer may not be safe for adults, let alone children between the ages of 14 and 18. Perhaps Cantu didn’t go far enough with his recommendations.

Finally, it’s important to note that football, alone among high school sports, is inherently unsafe for the brain. Football is the one sport which has as a primary objective inflicting physical punishment on one’s opponent. Unlike other sports, you can’t make football significantly safer for the brain without changing the nature of the game (e.g., banning blocking and tackling).

As a country we need to seriously consider whether or not it makes sense for our public high schools — academic centers designed to enhance the brain — to sponsor an activity that research clearly shows is dangerous for young brains.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


Comments are closed.

Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.