Which is more dangerous to children -- flag football or smoking? The Doctors discuss a new PSA that compares the popular sport to smoking, claiming the younger someone starts playing football the more danger their health is in, much like if someone were to start smoking at a young age.
The Doctors note the PSA is trying to bring awareness to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative disease caused by repeated head injuries, which can occur after years of playing football and having repeated head injuries. They also note if a child begins playing football at age 5, compared to 14, they have 10 times the risk of developing CTE.
Neuroscientist Dr. Don Vaugh explains that CTE can lead to issues like depression, movement disorders, impulsive behavior, speech impediments, and even dementia. He also notes the connection between contact sports like football and CTE is only just being discovered and he feels the early data on this possible health risk is enough of a red flag that parents should consider steering kids towards other sports and activities.
Dr. Vaugh says, "My children will not play tackle football," nothing when serious damage to the brain happens, nothing can be done about it.
But can advances in technology help make contact sports like football safer?
Dr. Vaugh says it is important to immediately detect concussions as they happen and then remove players from the game in order to prevent further injury. He says a new app that runs on a tablet and can diagnose cognitive impairments in players, and may help to detect a possible concussion. He would like to see schools and professional teams use this technology.
And while Dr. Vaugh has confidence that technology can help with this issue, he notes that CTE occurs 8 to 15 years after these repetitive head injuries take place. "How long are we willing to wait to discover what works and what doesn't?' he asks, explaining CTE is only diagnosed after someone has died and there is no way to replace the damaged brain cells caused by repetitive head injuries.
Find out more information about CTE at The Concussion Legacy Foundation.