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."…



April 30th, 2018 at 7:54 PM ^

As the authors emphasize in the study, there are challenges with the way this information is collected. Right now, it's all retrospective, for instance, and families have to fill out questionnaires, remembering information that may come from several decades back, and it's hard enough for most of us to remember what happened last week," said Hales, who was not involved in the new study.


April 30th, 2018 at 8:41 PM ^

We need to keep studying. But are these people already with CTE?

I remember reading in demon haunted world about what Sagan referred to as “back of the envelope” calculations. IIRC He said there is value in making quick judgments of available data and continuing research if it went against the grain.

For me, probably 70% of the males I know played in Pop Warner through High School. None have CTE symptoms.

I’m okay with my son playing.


April 30th, 2018 at 8:57 PM ^

It is incorrect to assume that none of the people you played with have no symptoms of CTE.  This demonstrates your lack of knowledge of CTE generally.  Moreover, you are an example of the kids I feel bad foor -- those with parents who have poor decision-making abilitiy.  

Evidence is clear that football damages brains.  I will not make that decision for my son.  If he wants to play, he can play when he has left the household at 18, which this country thinks is too young to handle booze, but is plenty old enough to go to war and decide to fuck up your brain.

Moreover, anyone can spout off anecdotal evidence.  I have a family member who died of CTE.  He withered away for four years and died at 64.  





April 30th, 2018 at 9:15 PM ^

You know jack about my decision making capability. I am on my phone but I have been tracking this. Their are other studies that don’t suggest football = 100% brain injury. But Thanks for the ad hominem because we disagree.

My dad, uncle, and grandfather died of cancer. My Mom and cousins are cancer survivors.

I wouldn’t presume to tell you about the lifestyle choices you make for your kids that might be carcinogenic, nor would I broadly question your decision making ability as a parent.

I’m sorry for your loss. Truly. But it doesn’t give you the right to be an ass or question another’s parenting skills.

Mike Damone

April 30th, 2018 at 7:44 PM ^

studies show that similar behavioral and mood problems were experienced by Michigan fans who suffered trauma just watching the team in the Brady Hoke years...


April 30th, 2018 at 8:53 PM ^

I mean, I will admit that I was often uplifted by the good week of practice, and then I would give the usher my tickets and would then suffer mood swings. I think that if we are going to do a study on THAT, we need to develop a very precise survey that probably doesn't need to go much further than this blog. 


April 30th, 2018 at 7:51 PM ^

Based on recollection after the fact, and no proven causation - always be careful with "associated with" "seems" "linked to" in studies


April 30th, 2018 at 8:11 PM ^

To get to the gold standard of a randomized control trial we would have to randomly assign people to play football for years, which is not possible (nor ethical).

Given these constraints, starting with retrospective studies makes sense. It is not the researchers' fault that many will take this data as strong evidence of a causational relationship. However, it does seem to me the larger scale evidence is starting to mount to match the reality that  of wives of the NFL have been telling us / what we've all seen happen to boxers.


May 1st, 2018 at 2:51 AM ^

And sport generally. Hockey, rugby, gymnastics, bull riding, nascar & F1 racing and even soccer, and on and on and on create movement which when repeated over long periods creates the risk of CTE. Not to mention, as a kid we used to play some pretty mean games of ‘smear the queer’ or ‘kill the guy with the ball” where on occasion some one would get knocked silky if not out cold. Not diminishing the impact of CTE on people but aside from creating better gear what is the end game - outlawing football?


May 1st, 2018 at 7:06 AM ^

There would be several hopes with the end game, most of which we are not at the capability yet of achieving. The first would be finding true causation of CTE - as we can't definitivly assess CTE in the living (unless that has changed in the last 3-4 months) we are unable to do more that have a correlation. And once we are able to assess CTE in the living we can start perfoming studies to have an idea of a better age to allow contact sports (as of know we can all argue when is a good age but we honestly don't have any sound science behind it, or atleast none that I am able to find in the UM library database). 

As we are learning more about CTE, concussions, and how the brain works we are able to start making better technology, like the device that Kuechly wears, to help limit the forces that are most likely to cause concussive issues. 

So honestly right now our end game is creating better equipment to reduce the risk and educating people on the possibility of brain trauma, just like the possibility of trauma to the rest of your body, in playing sports. Highlighting the importance of regular injury screening, not allowing young kids to play injured, and having in place specific guidelines for return to play after concussion (which is starting to occur). This isn't to say your brain is any more or less important than other body parts, but a causation is not enough to outlaw anything. If they so choose to take that risk than so be it, which personally the benefits of sports significantly outweight the current known risks for injury. 


May 1st, 2018 at 8:23 AM ^

I'd assume individuals will have different endgames. Prior to this amount of research I might have been more supportive of my kids playing football young. Now I am unsure if I will be supportive of them playing at any point. I am now uncomfortable with people choosing to play football at high levels, and have cognitive dissonance over how much I enjoy watching football, but I still do. Regardless, I prefer people to have as much possible knowledge about the risks going in. We can argue about whether it is "good/fair" to perpetuate a system that puts a high financial reward on risking your body/brain to this degree, but that is another question. As to the science--my original point--the goal is to have as much information about the risks as possible.

Your point does hold to a degree that all sports have risk for head injuries, but having played both football and rugby, you take a lot more bigger head hits in football. 


April 30th, 2018 at 8:46 PM ^

I attended Mt. Pleasant High School and graduated in '96.  We didn't start tackling until 9th grade in the public school system while the surrounding districts did.  We went 4-4 as freshmen and went on to go 24-4 as a class over our next 3 years and put one of the best teams in the state on the field.  Tackling before high school is completely unnecessary.  


April 30th, 2018 at 9:53 PM ^

Down on parents who drive their kids to do something other than sit on their lazy ass all day? Was your daddy mean to you? Is that why you are projecting your lame negativity regarding parenting, and coaching? What actually drives a person like yourself who seems to have a who’s is me attitude? How many trophies have you earned for participating and not actually “participating”.


April 30th, 2018 at 10:09 PM ^

Wow, uh I’m not down on parents for that, but ok. No my dad was in jail. I don’t have a negative attitude, I just think kids are given unrealistic expectations in many cases by someone who is trying to make up for what they couldn’t achieve. This is not the case for all and not even most, but many imo. I’ve never gotten a participation trophy and I’m not a fan of them for most things. I’m a lover of competition, as I feel it breeds excellence. Did I answer all your questions? Chill out.


April 30th, 2018 at 8:16 PM ^

I’m not sure what was more mentally damaging to me in pewee football.... The bull in the ring drill (make a circle and one kid has the ball and the other doesn’t and time to collide), or the drill where you laid head to head on your backs then got up and ran head to head into one another, that was fun, or my 400 pound Mill Worker of a coach who smelled like Natty Light and old cigarettes, who took his frustration out on me because his life sucked, but hey he was cool cause he coached football.


April 30th, 2018 at 8:14 PM ^

I played football for about 10 years and I wish I didn’t, at least not for that long. I love the sport and it taught me discipline but it has taken a toll on my body with debilitating arthritis and a gimp knee. The thought that the sport may have also reduced my cognitive function, even if by only a fraction of a percentage scares the shit out of me. I’d encourage parents to give careful consideration before allowing kids younger than high school to play. Personally, I wish I just focused on basketball.


April 30th, 2018 at 9:40 PM ^

I have coached youth and middle schools football and the one issue in the area that I coached were the kids we not able to play tackle football until 5th grade. These kids lacked proper form, and often got hurt because they hesitated prior to taking hits. I had a kid transfer from a neighbor Ming town that allowed tackle from 1st grade up and he played every year. He tackled with his head, up, eyes up and drove through on his tackles. He could also take hits and did not wince or hesitate before impact like many of the other kids. Not trying to tell you what to do, but my advice is to start them early in tackle, or don’t start them at all. Football may seem like a game that you can just jump right in at any point and learn it quick and excel. Yes, there are many who have jumped in late and prospered, but you build instincts at a young age that you carry throughout your entire time playing football.