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 #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world, with over 150 camps in 30+ U.S. states and Canada. We discuss problems in youth sports today, including single sport specialization, the growing gap between the “haves” and “have-nots,” the high drop-out rate in competitive sports, and the growing mental health challenges young athletes are dealing with today.
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Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
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.”
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.
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.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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