By Ken Reed
It’s mid-August and that means youth and high school football, and soccer, are upon us.
That means it’s time to revisit the subject of brain trauma. And that means focusing less on concussions and more on repetitive subconcussive head impacts.
When it comes to brain trauma and CTE in sports, research has shown that we’ve put too much emphasis on concussions.
For a long time, parents, coaches, players, members of the media and some doctors have blamed concussions for causing chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the brain disease often linked to contact sports like football and hockey.
To be sure, concussions are never good, but the fact is, research has revealed for some time now that it is repetitive sub-concussive blows to the brain that lead to the neurodegenerative disease commonly known as CTE.
“The concussion is really irrelevant for triggering CTE,” said Dr. Lee Goldstein, an associate professor at Boston University’s School of Medicine and College of Engineering, and a corresponding author of a study published in Brain, a peer-reviewed journal of neurology. “It’s really the hit that counts.”
That’s scary news for football in general, and the parents and coaches of young football players in particular. It’s also bad news for young soccer players (and their parents) — especially if they are in leagues that allow unlimited heading. It means young players, who are especially vulnerable to brain injuries due to the fact their brains are still developing, are suffering brain damage — potentially leading to CTE — without ever having suffered a concussion.
“The results (of the study) may explain why approximately 20 percent of athletes with CTE never suffered a concussion,” said Goldstein.
One of the implications of this study is that the current focus on concussion prevention and treatment protocols, while positive, really doesn’t fully address the development of CTE.
“The cumulative effect (of sub-concussive hits), when the brain is not fully healed, particularly in younger people, is really, really damaging, and that’s the problem,” said Goldstein.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
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. Linda writes extensively about how youth sports can hijack families, and family outings, non-sports activities and bonding time are lost in the pursuit of the next club team game or travel tournament.
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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.
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.
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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