Study Links Emotional, Cognitive Problems In Youth To Tackle Football

It seems as if every couple of months or so there is a new frightening study that associates football-related concussions and collisions with degenerative brain diseases for players of all ages. 

A new study of players finds that the earlier players with CTE started tackle football, the more vulnerable they were to emotional and cognitive problems, which according to CNN, means that they experienced earlier problems with memory and planning and organizing skills, they had emotional problems, and they struggled with depression and aggression much earlier than those players that started playing tackle football later.

It’s a totally frightening but logical finding based on what we are increasingly learning about CTE. 

USA TODAY Sports on Twitter

Latest CTE study shows those who played tackle football before age 12 had cognitive issues arise 13.39 years earlier, and behavioral and mood problems 13.28 years earlier than those who began to play at 12 or older.

Until recently, a major hurdle in diagnosing CTE was that it could only be done posthumously, but in 2017 a new test made it possible for scientists to detect the disease in the living and they are getting close to being able to pinpoint the exact age that CTE and other brain malfunctions began in certain players. 

ABC News on Twitter

Former NFL player confirmed as first diagnosis of CTE in living patient.

CNN reports that Researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine and VA Boston Healthcare System studied nearly 250 football players, of whom 211 were diagnosed with CTE after their death. CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, is a degenerative brain disease that often starts after repeated head trauma. Earlier studies have shown that the brain may change even after one hard hit.

“What this study also found was that playing tackle football lowers your resilience by about 13 years, and that is pretty profound, because that is a big difference,” Dr. Ann McKee, chief of neuropathology at Boston VA Healthcare System and director of Boston University CTE Center. 

This research is consistent with previous research that has shown a possible association between youth tackle football and problems with emotional and cognitive problems. Kids who get brain injuries before the age of 12 seem to recover slower, research finds.

Chicago Tribune on Twitter

A new study suggests kids who begin playing tackle football before age 12 could experience CTE symptoms more than 13 years earlier than their peers.

With all of the research being gained, theres still so much doctors dont know about CTE. 

Just before the 2012 NFL season kicked off a new study was released that suggested that professional football players are three times more likely to have neurodegenerative diseases than the general population.

In 2016, former NFL player Kevin Turner died having the most advanced stage of CTE. Turner played running back at Alabama from 1988-91 and then played eight seasons in the NFL. Turner was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease. In a 2013 interview with CNN affiliate WGCL, Turner discussed how he believes playing football played a large part in his ALS diagnosis: “I really believe that had I not played all those years, that I wouldn’t have this condition.”

Chris Nowinski, Ph.D. on Twitter

Good Sunday morning read on CTE & a football family: Kevin Turner’s Parents Still Watch Football. But Differently.

Turner was a lead plaintiff on the concussion-related lawsuit filed by more than 5,000 former NFL players.  The NCAA is starting to feel the heat as well. 

Zach Barnett on Twitter

The first CTE lawsuit against the NCAA is set to head to trial

 The neurologist and assistant professor in the Department of Neurology at Emory University said that until there is a test that can pinpoint when and how CTE starts, fully understanding the disease is going to take some time. 

“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. “That said, this does add to the data that is out there suggesting concern.

“In general,” he added, “we do know, it’s probably not a great idea to have little kids have repetitive head injuries.”

Panic is the word that comes to mind as more and more of these studies surface and bear results that are damning to the NFL. If what we already know about CTE and how it potentially affects the brains of young and pro athletes isnt enough for parents to wait until their kids are at least 13 to start playing tackle football or stop altogether, the fear of the unknown has already discouraged a growing number of families from participating in the sport. 

More bad news for the ride or die football families, lifers and lovers. The data is piling up and the NFL will have to face the facts head on eventually. Eliminating kickoffs and hard hits seem like a temporary solution to a much deeper problem. 

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