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Are we endangering our children’s brain health by allowing them to play high-impact contact sports? Researchers are finding that repetitive blows to the head in high-impact contact sports place athletes at risk of permanent brain damage.
While football players are prone to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), caused by repetitive blows to the head. Mayo Clinic scientists recently discovered an increase in brain damage in men who played contact sports as children (Science Daily).
The Mayo study links school contact sports – football, boxing, wrestling, rugby, basketball, and baseball – with the development of CTE. The symptoms of CTE include confusion, memory loss, depression, impaired judgment, aggression and progressive dementia. These symptoms can begin years or even decades after brain trauma.
The New York Times highlights how children who participate in all youth sports can be affected by concussions.
Recent news regarding long-term brain damage affecting NFL players has prompted parents to analyze how their children can be affected by similar consequences.
The young brain is especially affected by concussions, and sports-related concussions account for more than 50% of all emergency room visits by children aged 8 through 13. According to the article, a child who suffers a concussion is one and a half times more likely to experience another, and those who have had two concussions have a threefold greater risk of the same injury happening again.
Most parents are concerned about enrolling their children in football and soccer where head injuries are common. In fact, concussion fear has lead to a decline in youth football according to Pop Warner, the US’s largest youth football program.
But first, it is worth noting that almost no sport is free of a concussion hazard, and that participating in sports has “cognitive, physical, emotional and social benefits that outweigh everything,” said Steven P. Broglio, the director of the Neurotrauma Research Lab at the University of Michigan and the lead author of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association position statement on how best to deal with concussions among young athletes.