By Ken Reed
“I beg of you, all parents to please don’t let your children play football until high school,” says former Miami Dolphins star linebacker Nick Buoniconti.
“I made the mistake starting tackle football at 9 years old. Now, CTE has taken my life away.”
Buoniconti has been diagnosed with dementia and probable chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative disease. (At this point, CTE can only be confirmed via autopsy.) He has pledged to donate his brain to research.
Last week, several former NFL players came together with Boston University researchers to recommend that kids don’t play tackle football until their high school years because of the risk of brain damage in young, still-developing, brains.
The players, including former Oakland Raiders great Phil Villapiano, and former New York Giants All-Pro Harry Carson, teamed with Boston University researchers Dr. Robert Cantu and Dr. Lee Goldstein to talk about the risks of playing football at a young age. They referenced studies that show CTE can start early in life without any signs of concussion.
Dr. Julian Bailes, a neurosurgeon who has long studied football and brain injuries, says high school football players are still at risk. He says the concern over repeated hits to the head is actually magnified in high school.
“The real exposure to larger players, higher velocity hits and hundreds of hits starts in high school,” said Bailes.
Meanwhile, Goldstein emphasized that repetitive sub-concussive hits need to be the focus, not concussions.
“We will never prevent CTE by focusing on concussions. Any meaningful prevention campaign has to focus on preventing all hits to the head, including sub-concussive impacts,” said Goldstein.
As more and more research studies come out on brain trauma and its effects, it’s getting harder and harder to justify children and teenagers playing football at any age.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.” We discuss overzealous adults in youth sports, the dangers of sport specialization, youth sports entrepreneurs and the profit-at-all-costs mindset, and the growing socio-economic gap in youth sports.
Follow on Facebook: @SportsForumPodcast
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Episode #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan.
Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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