Youth Football can be the cause of brain dysfunction in later life

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A recent long-term study of football’s effects on young players was conducted by Dr. Robert Stern and his colleagues at Boston University. Boston University has been the epicenter for football concussion studies. In this study 214 former players with an average age of 51 were reviewed. 43 had played through high school, 103 through college and 68 were previously in the NFL. Players in all groups had a two-fold risk of behavioral regulation problems, apathy and executive functioning difficulties. Those who played at the NFL level had a three-fold risk of elevated depression scores.

Dr. Stern noted that players who began tackle football before 10-12 years of age were likely to experience problems later in life. These findings are consistent with an earlier study published by Boston University and reported here in NeuroNotes. Other studies have indicated that players who started before age 12 had diminished mental flexibility compared to those who started after age 12.

The formative years in brain growth and development can be negatively affected by repetitive impacts to the brain. Football has been at the cross hairs of this problem due to it’s popularity and the early age at which football is introduced to children. The Pop Warner League is the subject of a class action suit stemming from brain injuries problems occurring later in life. Even the NFL has made recommendations to adapt the game and support flag football for youth.

There is ample reason for concern and to limit the risk for brain injuries to children and youth involved in contact sports. Childhood brain injuries can cause significant problems later in life which can be prevented.

Click here to read the New York Times story.

About Rolf Gainer Ph.D.

Dr. Rolf Gainer is the founder of the Neurologic Rehabilitation Institute at Brookhaven Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma as well as the Neurological Rehabilitation Institute of Ontario, in Toronto, Canada. Dr. Gainer is a psychologist with more than twenty-five years of experience in the treatment and rehabilitation of individuals with brain injuries and a dual diagnosis. Dr. Gainer has designed and operated innovative rehabilitation programs in the United States and Canada for individuals who have been regarded as difficult to serve. He is currently involved in conducting two outcome studies related to the long-term issues faced by individuals with brain injuries and a dual diagnosis. He has presented papers throughout the United States and Canada in many professional conferences and educational forums.

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