A new study regarding youth football has sent raised even more questions about the reported safety of young kids and head injuries. The study, conducted by the Boston University School of Medicine and VA Boston Healthcare System, found a positive correlation between the earlier athletes with CTE started playing tackle football and the more likely they were to develop both cognitive and emotional problems later on in life.
Researchers examined the backgrounds of almost 250 football players. 211 of these studied were diagnosed with CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) following their deaths. Related to Alzheimer’s Disease, this degenerative brain disease is often jumpstarted by repetitive trauma to the head, a common occurrence in football at all ages. As research has begun to show a link between CTE and football, many of these athletes have decided to donate their brains after their deaths in an effort to give the medical community a better understanding of this disease and its underlying causes.
The results of this new study were published Monday in the journal Annals of Neurology. The research looked at both amateur and professional football players who had experienced repetitive traumatic brain injury prior to their deaths. Each player had differing amounts of experience, as well as varying degrees of brain injuries. Researchers were able to conduct interviews with the players’ families to collect data on each player’s history. The data demonstrated that for those athletes diagnosed with CTE, the beginning of neurological issues began approximately 2.5 years earlier in their lives for every one year spent playing tackle football at a younger age. The issues blamed for this include struggles with depression, behavioral problems, and decreased success of memory and planning skills.
This data is nearly certain to keep stoking the debate about when, if ever, it is appropriate for young children to begin playing tackle football. As the issue continues to garner media attention from both sides of the debate, researchers will continue to study CTE and the effects youth football may have on exacerbating the situation.