OT: Mounting Evidence: University study concludes youth football is bad for the brain

Submitted by NateVolk on September 19th, 2017 at 2:51 PM




"groups who participated in youth football before the age of 12 had a twofold “risk of problems with behavioral regulation, apathy and executive function” and a threefold risk of “clinically elevated depression scores.”


and mention of this:


"Last year, doctors at Wake Forest School of Medicine used advanced magnetic resonance imaging technology to find that boys between the ages of 8 and 13 who played just one season of tackle football had diminished brain function in parts of their brains."







September 19th, 2017 at 3:09 PM ^

Studies walk. It's the elephant in the room. Still a fan of Michigan football, but either the game will change eventually or else be replaced. Demographics conspire to substitute another game regardless, the NFL is losing fan numbers in some markets. Enjoy the game while we can and, BTW, provide lifelong healthcare for football players college through professional levels. 0.02


September 19th, 2017 at 3:46 PM ^

And where is that money for lifelong healthcare coming from? In the NFL, sure you can take it from their salaries, but will the NFLPA go for this? And college doesn't make enough money to pay for the future healthcare of everyone who plays college ball (all NCAA divisions + NAIA). Furthermore, are you limiting it to healthcare for injuries directly related to football or all healthcare as seems to be your claim. Why should one former player's injury fund have to pay for the lung cancer treatment of another former player who chose to smoke his entire life? This is neither fair nor implementable.


September 19th, 2017 at 4:45 PM ^

Isn't fair nor is its treatment implementable borrowing from your conclusion. An 18 yo seldom has appreciation for his future circa age 40, and medical science currently has no means for restoring brains damaged by multiple impacts on the cranium.

To address your paramount question, the money for lifelong player healthcare should originate from a "tax" on games, broadcasts and merchandise. Plowed directly into healthcare trust fund accounts for each player and managed for the remainder of their lives.


September 19th, 2017 at 5:14 PM ^

Both of which have far more evidence about the state of the science, and the alarmist media reporting on this issue.



In fact, we know WAY less about the impacts of football than lazy writing and sensationlism would have you believe. 

Are we actually watching players kill themselves before our eyes? No, not on average: A 2012 study of several thousand NFL retirees, conducted by researchers at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, found that the former football players lived significantly longer than race- and age-matched controls. They were much less likely to die from cancer, heart disease, diabetes, accidental falls, or homicides than anybody else. That doesn’t mean that taking hits improved their health, of course; surely the opposite is true. But still this study gave the lie to a fundamental intuition about football and one that’s touted almost everywhere. There’s zero evidence that playing professional football shortens lives on average. Those are the facts. Take ’em or leave ’em.


Sextus Empiricus

September 20th, 2017 at 7:26 AM ^

expectancy is shortened.  The data you point toward is not controlled for income, fitness... it's not controlled.  There are two clinical presentations of CTE described in the literature.  Do you know someone who has had the disease?  Do you have a close friend who has struggled with it?  Have you even read the study?

Open your mind, read the literature and think about it before confirming your opinions.  I encourage you to do this in good faith.  In fact I will make it easy for you.

As always... Go Blue.


September 20th, 2017 at 9:41 AM ^

that playing professionoal football shortens lives. More there is damage done to the brain and the rest of the body and lessens the quality of life and can lead to dibilitating problems and that is fact. I can tell you my body has suffered from all the years I played the game and I would be very hesitant to allow my child to play it.


September 20th, 2017 at 2:22 AM ^

What the article states is that the group starting football before 12 was twice as likely to develop cogntive issues and three times as likely to  develop depression.  That is a raw reporting of the results from the sample but you're correct that 214 is too few observations to conclude that applies to the total population.

However, without running the numbers (since I don't have them), it is certainly possible, even probable, that the differences between under 12s and over 12s are enough to reject a null hypothesis that there is no difference between starting before or after 12 with high confidence.

The biggest question mark about the study, in my mind, is that I'm pretty sure safety measures and things weren't very good 40 years ago when these subjects (avg age 51) were playing football as under 12 year olds. 

It is compelling evidence that what were were doing 40 years ago probably wasn't enough, but there is still a question of how bad it still is (or how much better it has become) with today's helmets and rules and style of play. 


September 19th, 2017 at 3:20 PM ^

Go back to leather helmets, and light padding, like the neighborhood pickup game.....  nobody is gonna go ape and head first without a plastic helmet.... it'll fix itself.

Mack Tandonio

September 19th, 2017 at 3:48 PM ^

I've started to wondered if the helmets need a hard shell. It seems like a soft layer on the outside wouldn't transfer force as efficiently. Sort of like pool balls vs. softball. Maybe even an incremental reduction of force could have a significant effect when the brain crashes into the skull. Thoughts?

Mack Tandonio

September 19th, 2017 at 5:45 PM ^

I would agree, but helmets do reduce that impact or they wouldn't be wearing them. It seems like some of the worst brain injuries happen with helmet to helmet hits. I would think exterior cushioning would make the helmet act more like a boxing glove than a fist. I know I'm probably wrong because it would have been done by now, but... you know.


September 19th, 2017 at 4:05 PM ^

Literally multiple people died playing football during leather helmet days.  It won't magically fix itself.  People love to reference rugby but they are two massively different sports.  It is extermely rare in rugby for two players to hit each other with more than a few steps of momentum wheras in football players often sprint into each other.  Scrums are also relatively rare highly regulated events rather than the constant head to head impact of line play, etc.  

Removing protection wouldn't fix the game of football it would make injuries much worse.


September 19th, 2017 at 3:26 PM ^

There's no need for anything but touch or flag football before high school.  You can learn how to throw, run routes, handoffs, blocking angles...all the basic skills other than actual tackling.


September 19th, 2017 at 3:26 PM ^

I football is a game where players might hit head to head what is the take on boxing? When do most kids start taking that up? If its before someones 18th birthday how can a parent send their kid in where the point is to bash someones head in. My main point is if football is doomed then MMA and boxing should be the first ones on the choping block. 


September 19th, 2017 at 3:35 PM ^

are two different issues with the football and CTE thing.

Issue 1 - It is a real issue and precautions should be taken (are being taken) to ensure that the game is as safe as possible and equipment is as good as possible while still not eliminating the features that make the sport what it is.

Issue 2 - It is clickbait, and it is the "in-thing" for people to take a loud haughty stance about.

As to Issue 1, I am glad that research is continuing and that steps will continue to be taken to make the game as reasonably safe as possible.  As to Issue 2, I cannot believe how tired and sanctimonious the discussion is becoming.

The reason that you don't hear the same discussion with boxing, hockey, etc. is simply because discussing the dangers of football is very much the "in-thing" to do right now.  All the cool people are doing it.


September 19th, 2017 at 3:53 PM ^

I don't hink focusing on CTE in footballl is the "in-thing". Across the U.S. football is a much larger part of society than other sports. From high school on Friday, to college on Saturday, and pro's on Sunday. No other sport garners the following football does across the whole country.

CTE is an issue which could be (and many would argue already is) a critical factor in the long term viability of the sport. Combine those things together and it is not simply trendy, but necessary that this conitnues to be discussed so parents can make informed decisions about the health of their children. 


September 19th, 2017 at 4:09 PM ^

but most of these articles are focusing on football to the exclusion of nearly all other possibilities.  "Behavioral regulation" and depression can be influenced by so many other factors.  Most of these kids that are part of this study are part of the first generation of youth that wear headphones like 17 hours per day, begin texting constantly when they are like 10 years old, and determine their own personal worth by the number of facebook friends they have.  Additionally, like one out of every three kids are being put on some kind of stimulant medication by the time they are 7 years old right now.  Are these factors considered in this study, or just football?


September 19th, 2017 at 4:37 PM ^

There are more and more studies being released about the impact of many of the things you mentioned and cognitive development. (I know of one study which has proven a direct correlation between time spent on facebook and having a negative attitude). Some day there may be warnings on social platforms and tech devices informing the user of the potential results.

The difference is, as of now, the evidence available regarding CTE is that the physical impact from the repeated hits to the head (not just the one time big concussion) is directly related to physical damage to the brain resulting in mental issues. That is biology, not psychology, and it can be directly measured and it is independant of any other outside influences. Unfortunately, it will take more time and more studies to understand how strongly they correlate. 

Maize and Blue…

September 19th, 2017 at 6:45 PM ^

If it can be directly measure how come the CTE studies are not done on all players just self participating players?  Could steriod use be part of the problem?  What other factors may be involved?

Look at all the former players in broadcasting that don't seem to be having any problems yet were subject to the same things as those that have CTE.  What is the reason since it is all biology?


September 19th, 2017 at 9:36 PM ^

As stated, more data is required to "be sure". However, the ability to scan for CTE in live people is as recent as 2015/2016. That explains why it is not widespread yet.
Regarding why everyone doesn't show symptoms the same way, I'm assuming that is a snarky comment just to prove a point and you were not really looking for the obvious reply.


September 19th, 2017 at 3:29 PM ^

well i'm a youth football coach (Huber Heights oh)   and have been for 5 years. over those years we have 3 kids have severe concussions and not one of them happened at football. 2 were riding bikes and one was wrestling his brother at home. not saying we havent had any because we have had a couple mild ones over the years. my point is a concussion can happen any time  in any sport/activity.  no one can tell me soccer is  so much safer then football when they run into each other constantly with no protection and hitting the ball of their heads.  youth football  has made changes over the years as far as practice and contact during the week. is it perfect no and more changes will probably be made.  my son plays and  i do my best to make sure if he ever has any signs of an injury/concussion that he sits out and goes to dr (thankfully he never has).  i also coach youth girls b-ball and we had two girls in our league suffer concussions this last year.  i guess my question would be would you rather have your kid play football or sit at home playing video games ect.. everyday of the week. in the end which is less healthy? because to many kids today are just sitting around doing nother but play video games or on their phones. just my 2 cents  


September 19th, 2017 at 3:45 PM ^

I agree to an extent with what you are saying. But your examples of other sports possibly causing concussions doesn't hold water. You could just as easily say that cancer can also happen at any time --  which is does. But if you smoke cigarettes, the likelihood of getting it increases dramatically.


September 19th, 2017 at 4:23 PM ^

Have you actually read the recent studies on concussion risks in youth sports? Football generally has the highest rate but you would be surprised at what other sports have rates that are more than one-half or two-thirds that of football.

Basketball, volleyball, soccer, wrestling, cheerleading, and other sports not normally considered violent contact sports have concussion rates high enough that if you think football is risky, you'll probably think those sports are risky too.


September 19th, 2017 at 3:46 PM ^

I'm not necessarily disagreeing with you but feel compelled to point out the linked article didn't use the word concussion once.  Often overlooked is the evidence that repeated sub-concussive hits may be a big part of the problem, so just focusing on eliminating concussions isn't necessarily solving the problem.


As for tackle football versus youth soccer, I forget the name of the governing body, but all US youth soccer leagues I'm aware of followed the mandate that children under a certain age playing soccer not be allowed to head the ball.  My son is 10, and at his age group it's a penalty if they head the ball.

big john lives on 67

September 19th, 2017 at 4:10 PM ^

This is why if true, ALL contact sports should be immediately eliminated. That includes soccer, hockey, lacrosse, gymnastics, wrestling, boxing, diving, figure skating, basically anything at all in the X games, etc.

The key is the sub-concussive hits. All of the sports above have them to one degree or another.

You won't hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth over any of those other sports because it is not lucrative and fashionable. The studies that need to happen to provide the complete picture are not being done. These analyses should be completed across many different sports and across many different ages. Only then will you have an accurate basis for comparison. We do not even know what constitutes a sub-concussive hit.

As of now, these studies are more click bait than conclusive.