By Ken Reed
In a recent Washington Post commentary, Dr. Robert Cantu, clinical professor of neurology and neurosurgery and co-founder of the CTE Center at the Boston University School of Medicine, and Mark Hyman, professor of sports management at George Washington University, suggested the following Surgeon General’s Warning be placed on all youth football helmets and youth tackle football registration forms:
SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Tackle football is dangerous for children. Children who play tackle football absorb repeated hits to the head. As adults, they’re at higher risk of suffering cognitive deficits as well as behavioral and mood problems.
It’s not a bad idea. When parents sign up their children for football, they are placing them in an activity that has been shown in numerous studies to be very dangerous for the human brain. Adults taking on the neurological risks of football is one thing, but children are being put in harm’s way before they reach the age of legal consent.
Brain trauma, cognitive problems, and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) aren’t just NFL issues. The Boston University CTE Center has published three studies in the last few years all pointing to the same conclusion:
“Adults who played tackle football as children were more likely to deal with emotional and cognitive challenges in later life.”
Most adults in America are now aware of the link between concussions and CTE. But many, if not most, are unaware of the link between repetitive subconcussive blows to the head and a variety of cognitive, behavioral and neurological conditions and diseases, including CTE. In other words, you don’t need to have had multiple concussions to be at risk. CTE has been found in the brains of former college and high school football players, not just NFL players.
While the Boston University CTE Center has discovered CTE in the brains of 110 of 111 former NFL players, the Center has also found CTE in the brains of 48 of 53 former college players. Those college players didn’t go on to play football in the NFL. Moreover, 21% of the 14 brains of former high school football players studied at the Center had evidence of CTE. And those players never played football beyond high school.
Football, not baseball, is the true national pastime when it comes to sports in America. In fact, football is probably better described as our national obsession.
That said, there’s currently enough evidence on the table showing football is dangerous to the human brain — especially the brains of children whose brains are still developing — to have a serious national discussion about whether or not our young people should continue to participate in youth and high school football in this country.
— 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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