Playing football young can lead to emotional and cognitive issues

Playing football young can lead to emotional and cognitive issues

Submitted by ca_prophet on April 30th, 2018 at 7:37 PM

Specifically, subjects whose posthumous brain donations were part of the UNITE study had their family histories examined.  The earlier they started playing, the earlier their symptoms would appear:

"...the researchers discovered for those players who had CTE, every one year younger the individual started playing tackle football predicted the earlier onset of behavioral and mood problems by 2.5 years and cognitive problems by 2.4 years."…

Study from Feb 2018 journal Brain showing hits not concussion cause CTE

Study from Feb 2018 journal Brain showing hits not concussion cause CTE

Submitted by Sextus Empiricus on February 2nd, 2018 at 7:04 AM

Concussion, microvascular injury, and early tauopathy in young athletes after impact head injury and an impact concussion mouse model 

Brain, Volume 141, Issue 2, 1 February 2018, Pages 422–458,
18 January 2018
Article history

My embed kungfu is no good... perhaps yours is much better.

If you are interested hit this link...

There is a 4 min video embedded in this study (which was published with a public link... i.e. you have full access.) which I can't scrape for this post (or at least 20 mins of looking couldn't get it done.)

The video is a pretty good summary. I will diarize later if I have time but there is nothing here that a layperson can't wrap their heads around.

This is the sort of publishing Journals should do for all public health studies IMO.

TL;DR - Concussions don't cause CTE. The raw contact does.  Concussion protocols don't protect players from CTE risk.

Time to think about flag football Saturdays perhaps.  I for one would like to see Ultimate made a varsity sport.  Regardless this is good science and is well written.

This study should have some media impact if it hasn't already.  

Go Blue!

Coaches Can Be Sued by Athletes For Additional Harm After Suspected Concussion

Coaches Can Be Sued by Athletes For Additional Harm After Suspected Concussion

Submitted by LLG on September 24th, 2017 at 1:19 PM

This ruling by the Third Circuit (the federal appeals court that covers Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and the Virgin Islands) holds that student-athletes may sue for additional harm if a coach returns them to play after a suspected concussion.

You can read the decision here:

News article here:…

As the news article says:  The 3rd Circuit panel, in its ruling this week, held that a coach at a public school may be held liable where the coach requires a player who shows signs of a concussion "to continue to be exposed to violent hits."

"We hold that an injured student-athlete participating in a contact sport has a constitutional right to be protected from further harm, and that a state actor violates this right when the injured student-athlete is required to be exposed to a risk of harm by continuing to practice or compete," U.S. Circuit Judge Thomas I. Vanaskie wrote for the panel.

Middle class abandoning football

Middle class abandoning football

Submitted by LLG on September 8th, 2017 at 2:39 PM

Makes me wonder about how college football changes also.  Any thoughts?

Death of NFL inevitable as middle class abandons the game

"You really think the NFL is worried about young athletes? If so, they'd have changed the rules years ago, abandoning face masks, enlarging the ball to make it difficult to throw, switching to one platoon football."

I didn't know about one platoon football before (or the phrase).  Some research pulled up this article about Fritz Crisler:  The Man Who Changed Football

Sports Illustrated article starts:  "When the NCAA Rules Committee voted a return to two-platoon football last month, one of the least surprised men in the country—and one of the most pleased—was Fritz Crisler, athletic director of the University of Michigan. Crisler is a life member of the Rules Committee."

OT - Football Brain Impact Vizualization and Article (New Technology) - NYTimes

OT - Football Brain Impact Vizualization and Article (New Technology) - NYTimes

Submitted by Everyone Murders on January 9th, 2017 at 4:44 PM

The NYTimes just published a fascinating article measuring the effects of football impacts to the head over the course of the game.  The visualization relating to a helmet-to-helmet hit is especially striking.

Definitely worth a look for those who worry about player safety and the future of the game.

In this chart, we show the G-force data from just 10 of the 62 hits this offensive lineman accrued in a single game. The average G-force, 25.8, is roughly equivalent to what we would see if the offensive lineman crashed his car into a wall going about 30 m.p.h.

The bioengineering here involves a mouthguard developed at Stanford which measures impacts in a unique fashion.  This is apparently a superior (although still somewhat imprecise) measure of impact compared with helmet sensors.

Anyway, a good read for those interested in the topic.

Help: links to articles on why football is ok needed

Help: links to articles on why football is ok needed

Submitted by StephenRKass on June 18th, 2016 at 12:16 AM

So my wife and I watched "Concussion" tonight. This was kind of a mistake. Now she is ready to pull our son from football.

I fully understand that there is a danger of both concussions and CTE. However, I also know that coaching paradigms have changed, and that there are some studies showing it is not always bad for kids to play HS football.

Of course, I can google this. But you never know what you're going to find on the Internet. If any of you neurologists or doctors or coaches who have followed this can post some links on why it is ok to play tackle football in High School, it would be greatly appreciated.

EDIT:  As I read through the comments, I thought a few edits were in order.'

First, to reiterate, I have no problem with my son playing football, if he wants to play (which he does). Now, I want the trainers and the coaches to carefully follow concussion protocol. I pretty much have a "one concussion" rule. (If you have one concussion you're done playing football. Exception:  I recognize that in an abundance of caution, a trainer might go CYA and say, "your son might have had a mild concussion," when it is pretty unlikely. In the current climate, trainers can be a bit gun shy. That's when you get a second opinion).

Second, regarding bubblewrap and all, actually, we are fortunate to have pretty active kids. Between roller blading, street hockey, skateboarding, dirt biking, bicycling, and other stuff, we're glad the kids aren't just getting fat playing video games on the couch. His twin sister made the varsity soccer team this year as a freshman:  I suppose we should watch her just as carefully for concussions!

The movie "Concussion" really kind of loads the deck. Even though you can get a concussion in soccer or from a bicycle fall or from just tripping over your feet and hitting your head, there is something viscereal about seeing footage of brutal hits. When a mom sees clips of brutal head to head collisions in NFL games, it is pretty sobering. I'm sure the movie cherry picked the most graphic, brutal head to head collisions they could possibly find. This seems more frightening than the image of a kid on a socceer field, skateboard, roller blades, or a bicycle.

Football Killed Tyler Sash

Football Killed Tyler Sash

Submitted by JeepinBen on January 27th, 2016 at 11:45 AM

Noted excellent author and horrible pun enthusiast Adam Jacobi has a piece up over at BHGP discussing dead-at-27 former Iowa Safety Tyler Sash's recent diagnosis with CTE.…

The diagnosis is, sadly, no surprise. Sash's fall after football was swift and pronounced, and his arrest in 2014 typified the erratic behavior of those suffering from the disease. Its advancement in his young age, however, is more of a surprise, if only because researchers said they had only seen one other similar case.
Sash's death isn't a problem specific to Iowa football, of course. The University of Iowa was Sash's home for just four of his 16 years of playing football, and as Marc Morehouse wrote in 2014, the University of Iowa has a substantial, multifaceted concussion protocol. There's no reason to think the school came up short in its medical treatment of Sash.
That shouldn't reassure you; it should terrify you. Tyler Sash's life and death as a football player aren't an aberration from protocol; they are part of the protocol. Football killed Tyler Sash.

I agree with Jacobi's premise that other sports have often struggled with the danger they impose - his NASCAR description is apt. As hockey discusses banning fighting, I think the answer is they must. Sorry to share a downer, but this is well done and quite the rejoiner to Harbaugh's "Football is worth it" piece from earlier this year.

Attack on Football 12/25/2015

Attack on Football 12/25/2015

Submitted by Sextus Empiricus on December 22nd, 2015 at 4:13 PM

Last March Jim Harbaugh stated to the press and presumably the majority of high school football coaches in Michigan that football was under attack.  Here is his response to one of the final questions of that spring presser…

How important is a day like this for recruiting? You have 800 coaches here, so in terms of getting to know people or reacquainted with people for the next recruiting class.
“Oh, sure. It's there. That's not the purpose of why we're doing this. [The purpose is] fellowship with other coaches. Guys that are ambassadors for the game of football and how important is that with football under attack these days that there are ambassadors for the game of football.

This was an interesting time in college football  The football media and more importantly the media at large were onto the concussion issue and smelled blood after PBS won a Peabody for League of Denial based on the book by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru.

A month later John Harbaugh came out with his spring blog post Why Football Matters. It's clear that Jim and John are aligned on this Attack on Fooball (AoF).  If you haven't read that post – you probably should. 

There is a seasonality to this AoF and In this vein we about to enter into the evaluation period where a good deal of the meta discussion and policy making is done.  If that sounds conspiratorial … so be it … it's happening.

In some people's minds the AoF started with the science of dementia pugilistica which is more widely known now as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).  Unfortunately science didn't finish it.   In fact the science is just starting to roll on CTE.  Here is a PubMed index for concussion and CTE research papers by year since 1962.


What most people would term "the AoF" actually started in 1994 when the NFL formed the first committee to understand concussion in the context of the spectrum of injuries to NFL players.  The ineptitude of that committee and the initial intention of the NFL to downplay head injury at all cost was the first battle in the attack Jim and John Harbaugh conjecture.  I've linked to the Frontline timeline above which is not definitive but provides a good run down.

The first AoF starts much earlier – as John Harbaugh outlines in his blog post…

In 1905, there were 19 player deaths and at least 137 serious injuries. Many of these occurred at the high school and college levels. Major colleges said they were going to drop football because the game had become too violent.

That’s when President Teddy Roosevelt stepped in to call a meeting with coaches and athletic advisers from Harvard, Princeton and Yale. He wanted to find a way to make the game safer. They made significant changes, introducing new rules like the forward pass and the wide receiver position. Those changes turned football more into the game we know it as today.

We made progress. Rules changed. Society evolved. The game advanced.

What John Harbaugh is saying here is misleading but he is right on point that football has been under attack before and survived.  That attack and the current AoF are different far more than they are alike however.

The current AoF came back to me again when I read this editorial in Forbes in response to the politicizing of football in regards to public health.  It turns out youth participation is lagging disproportionately along political boundaries.  Just as with other matters of science the importance of tying data to policy is paramount to doing the right thing.   Unfortunately like climate change, aids policy and many other economically and/or socially charged issues – concussion and CTE policy is not all about the data instead it involves compromise.

As John Harbaugh states in his post…

We’re at another turning point in our sport. The concussion issue is real and we have to face it.

We have to continue to get players in better helmets. We have to teach tackling the right way, and that starts at the NFL level. Change the rules. Take certain things out of the game. It’s all the right thing to do.

So there you go … there's something out there attacking Football.  For the purposes of this diary I'm calling that AoF.  Football has been attacked before but the current iteration started ~1994.  There is a scientific basis for this attack and the research is ongoing.  The current AoF is falling out along political boundaries (but in reality is more class based.)  But where and how are we seeing this crop up.

By far the biggest event this month regarding the AoF is the movie Concussion produced by Ridley Scott, written by Peter Landesman and starring Will Smith out in theaters on Christmas day.

There's been quite a bit of PR, publicity and spin going on with this movie as it will be coming out this week.  This more than anything else this month will possibly be the most talked about AoF event. 

Will Smith has been nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance as Bennet Omalu.  He's likely to get an Oscar nomination as well.  The movie unfortunately is not likely to get as much acclaim.  I will save judgment on that until it is released but the article on which the movie is based and the book created for the movie is a story based on the true events surrounding Omalu's discovery of CTE in MIke Webster's brain and his attempts to inform the NFL and the public of the danger.

Surrounding this human story is the much larger story of CTE itself and Football with a capital "F".  Having seen the documentary League of Denial there is little in actual content added from the GQ article the movie is derived from, which is not surprising since the article predates the documentary.  In fact there has been much in the way of CTE reporting and league reform since the original material this movie is based on came out.  But the movie is a theatrical movie and as such will probably reach a wider audience than the documentaries, articles and books that have covered this material since are capable of reaching.

If there is a person who has not heard this material already it could be conceived as inflammatory.  There are reports of negotiations between the NFL and Sony Pictures in the media about the portrayal of the NFL.  It's hard to tell how much of that is publicity and how much is real.   Dave Duerson's family has also taken issue with Duerson's portrayal in the film.  If the book or reviews are any indication none of that is beyond the poetic license taken in any movie based on a true story.  The movie itself is more likely to suffer criticism cinematically than factually. So far the star power of Will Smith is the biggest selling point.

The biggest contribution of the movie to the AoF, besides perhaps being good at best, is the title itself.  In this respect Football is a loser.  By titling the movie Concussion – Sony has conflated concussion and CTE in a way that obscures the real nature of the movie.  It should by all rights be called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or just CTE.  Though understandably that doesn't have a very catchy feel, naming the movie Concussion is a disservice to sport and public health.

Concussions and CTE are not synonymous.  Concussions do not cause CTE.  They don't really correlate even.  There are cases where CTE has been found where there is no recorded incidence of a concussion.  The only real correlation of CTE and behavior wrt football  is age of first exposure to the sport and/or duration of play – as in how many years one has played.

The two ailments are very different, but the movie is about CTE.  Concussions can be difficult to diagnose but they are diagnosable.  CTE is not diagnosable.  There are studies and scans that can be done and data that has been collected but for the time being the only definitive way to diagnose CTE is by post mortem – which is really what this movie Concussion is all about … not concussions.  Omalu makes his case through forensic autopsy for CTE not mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) – which is the medical term for concussion.  In fact it's very difficult to diagnose a mild traumatic brain injury in a post mortem.  There is a tremendous amount of physical subtlety to MTBI which can only be determined clinically. 

Concussions have a "protocol" that has been instituted in the NFL this season of which all fans are more than aware.  Most people know someone who has had a concussion.  Concussions can be treated with rest.  CTE has some experimental treatment but not any established medical protocol.  It's very rare outside football players, boxers and hockey players.  Very few people know a person who has had it.  Finally and most importantly there is no NFL protocol to reduce CTE.  In fact as linked above – the league is being coy about funding research to detect it in vivo.

By equating concussions and CTE the issue of CTE is obscured.  Proponents of the AoF perhaps would not agree with that assessment but here's what I mean.  As different as concussions are from CTE to limit them is certainly a positive. At least you can treat them.  Blows concussive or not are the issue.  But repetitive sub concussive blows are just as likely to give an athlete CTE.  Nonetheless, Sony calls this movie Concussion.  If this doesn't seem a big deal… it is.

Previously I showed a comparison of articles in PubMed  on concussion and CTE.  That presented a very skewed perspective of the relative work being done on these conditions.  When you call concussion by it's technical term MTBI you get this…


What you call things is important not only to search engines but in matters of public health.  Concussion science has dwarfed work on CTE.  Rightfully so as many of our veterans, youth and elderly are at very high risk and it's common.  The long term consequences of MTBI are grave enough not to be conflated with CTE for which the prognosis is grim and since it can't be diagnosed … scary.

But now… thanks to Sony… when you search the web for concussion… you get movie times and locations and an IMDb listing for a movie about CTE.  LMGTFY link …


Conflating CTE and Concussion does not serve any real public good and truly does attack football.  The AoF is really a battle for the hearts and minds of those who play the game and their parents.  By making concussion synonymous with CTE it becomes public fear mongering.

When Teddy Roosevelt helped fend off the first attack in 1905.  He did so not primarily as President of the United States, but rather as the parent of a freshman college football player.  There many differences between that AoF and the current attack or 'culture war' as John Harbaugh puts it.  The first one is money.  There is a mother lode more money in the game than a hundred years ago.  It changes everything…the motives and behavior of schools, conferences and leagues…the power of the players to set standards.  A second is elitism.  Back in 1905 Harvard and Yale were big players in football.  College itself was the refuge of the privileged.  History gets tricky when comparisons are made.  The greatest similarity is perhaps that fact that Teddy Roosevelt had a reason to intercede as a parent.

Though modern parents don't have a bully pulpit to bring about change like Roosevelt did in 1905 the call for reform of the current game is substantially going to come from parents of the todays high school and college athletes as well.  They need to do this without the attack on football setting the terms.

OT: Potential Milestone in the Prevention & Treatment of CTE

OT: Potential Milestone in the Prevention & Treatment of CTE

Submitted by DrewGOBLUE on July 16th, 2015 at 7:58 PM
Yesterday, the findings of a study conducted at NYC's Boston's Beth Israel Medical Center on the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases like CTE and Alzheimer's were published in Nature (possibly the most prestigious academic journal). Link

This article by ScienceDaily sums it up pretty well. Link

Author Kun Ping Lu, MD, PhD, Chief of the Division of Translational Therapeutics in the Department of Medicine at BIDMC and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School (HMS), states "Our study shows that an early neurodegenerative process induced by the toxic tau protein can begin just hours after a traumatic brain injury. In both cell models of stress and in mouse models simulating sport- and military-related TBI, the production of this pathogenic protein, called cis P-tau, disrupts normal neurological functioning, spreads to other neurons and leads to widespread neuronal death.

We have developed a potent monoclonal antibody that can prevent the onset of widespread neurodegeneration by identifying and neutralizing this toxic protein and restoring neurons' structural and functional abilities."

Whether or not this research translates into effective interventions, there's still typically the caveat of new treatments taking years to receive FDA approval. Fortunately, though, that's a topic which is receiving some attention -- Kate Upton's Uncle Fred actually proposed a bill to congress that, if passed, would accelerate the process.

OT: Age of first exposure to football and later-life cognitive impairment in former NFL players

OT: Age of first exposure to football and later-life cognitive impairment in former NFL players

Submitted by Sextus Empiricus on January 29th, 2015 at 12:11 AM

There is an association between participation in tackle football prior to age 12 and greater later-life cognitive impairment measured using objective neuropsychological tests. These findings suggest that incurring repeated head impacts during a critical neurodevelopmental period may increase the risk of later-life cognitive impairment.

Published online before print January 28, 2015, doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000001358 Neurology 10.1212/WNL.0000000000001358

NYT write ups...

Study of Retirees Links Youth Football to Brain Problems

To Allay Fears, N.F.L. Huddles With Mothers

The hits keep coming.  Having played pop warner ball I have to wonder about my own precocious senior moments.  This goes beyond NFL players.

The CTE story is the stake in the heart of the game that is slowly being twisted deeper with every study despite NFL huddling with mothers and settlements with players.  

Do players sign releases in college?  It's getting to that point.  Michigan's exposure is already played out in past stories with first hand accounts from Michigan players.  In my heart I think it is time to find another past time.  Baseball anyone?