By Ken Reed
The latest study on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) has revealed that it’s not just the number of blows to the head over time that leads to CTE but the cumulative force of those hits.
Historically, we first thought it was multiple concussions that led to CTE. However, newer research suggested that it was a high number of sub-concussive hits to the brain that were the primary cause. Now, we know it’s not just the number of hits to the head but the collective force of those hits over time.
The new study, published in Nature Communications, is the largest CTE study to date. It examined the root causes of CTE, which is associated with everything from memory loss to impulsive behavior to suicidal thoughts and depression.
Using data from 34 published studies that tracked blows to the head measured by sensors inside of football helmets, it was discovered that the worst forms of CTE showed up in players who had absorbed the greatest cumulative force of hits to the head, meaning they were hit in the head often and hard over a long period of time.
According to the study, the football players that absorb the hardest hits to the head are defensive backs, wide receivers, and running backs.
So, given what we know today about the causes of CTE, what can be done to lower the risk to football players and other athletes in contact sports?
“Anything that reduces the number of hits and force of the hits could be beneficial,” according to senior author Jesse Mez, an associate professor of neurology at the Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine, and codirector of clinical research at the Boston University CTE Center. “This would include starting to play at an older age, playing fewer games, not hitting in practice, or reducing drills that encourage hard hitting.”
For starters, that advice could translate into playing flag football — or another sport — instead of tackle football until high school, eliminating full contact hitting in practices during the season and severely restricting preseason full contact sessions, and strongly penalizing any blows to the head in games, whether they are perceived to be intentional or not.
— 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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