By Ken Reed
The Super Bowl game this weekend between the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles, will be played by adults. Adults who, at this point in time, are surely aware of the dangers the game represents to their brains and long-term health.
While it’s important to keep educating college and professional football players with the latest findings from research studies on the effects of repetitive blows to the brain, as a nation, our focus needs to be on the millions of children and teenagers in this country that are playing the game before the age of legal consent, and who very likely aren’t fully aware of the dangers of playing football.
Doctors and scientists agree that playing football before the age of 14 is especially dangerous because brains are still developing. (Note: Many doctors and researchers believe the brain continues to develop into one’s early 20’s) A recent Boston University study of 214 former football players found that playing tackle football before the age of 12 resulted in an increased risk of depression and behavioral problems. (This is a particular problem in schools as playing football at a young age also increased problems with executive function in the brain, which impacts people’s ability to pay attention and multitask, among other things.)
It’s important to note that brain damage — even without suffering a concussion — can have both short-and-long-term consequences.
“If you injure a brain at that early age, it can have later life potential consequences,” according to Dr. Robert Cantu, co-founder of the CTE Center at Boston University and one of the country’s leading researchers on brain trauma.
Chris Borland had a stand-out rookie season with the San Francisco 49ers. He then did some extensive research on brain trauma and concussions and decided to retire, not wanting to endanger his future health. He now works educating parents and children about the risks of brain trauma in football.
“Our primary objective is to get children through childhoods without any cognitive deficits. … Compromising the organ that would constitute that development is silly,” says Borland.
Legislators in Louisiana and New York have introduced legislation that would ban football for pre-teens.
“I firmly believe that when we see evidence of the danger to children, we need to act on that,” said Michael Benedetto, a New York state assemblyman. “There are laws that you need to use a car seat, wear a bicycle helmet. It’s the same principle.”
The pile of research studies on the dangers of tackle football for the human brain is getting higher and higher as we prepare for another Super Bowl.
As Benedetto suggests, apart from watching the Big Game this Sunday, collectively, we need to learn as much as we can about the dangers of tackle football for youth and high school players and then act on that knowledge.
It’s a topic that we can’t continue to avoid simply because we love the game.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a long-time member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
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Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
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. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
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.
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.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
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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Ken Reed’s Author Page on Amazon