Column: Is The Risk Of Brain Injury Too High A Price For Football?

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All over the country, young people are beginning football practice. Dressed in shoulder pads and helmets, the look like little warriors going off to battle.

And once again people are questioning the wisdom of children playing football in full gear with hitting and the resulting injuries.

One of them is featured in the most recent issue of Chicago Magazine, Mike Oliver, the founder and former coach of a youth football team in Naperville. In the interview with the magazine, Oliver basically says kids should not be playing football.

The reason?

>Dave Duerson, are among those who have been found to have been suffering from the disease.

Symptoms of the disease include memory loss, difficulty controlling impulsive or erratic behavior, impaired judgment, behavioral disturbances including aggression and depression, difficulty with balance, and a gradual onset of dementia.

Unfortunately, the disease can only be diagnosed post-mortem though examination of the brain. Often, it is mistaken for other diseases because of the similar symptoms.

How widespread is CTE? Is it just blind bad luck if a former player is afflicted with it or is it a certainty for someone who plays the game?

>
>Brain study examined 111 former NFL players. Only one didn't have CTE.
> Rick Maese

Researchers studying the link between football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy found that 99 percent of the brains donated by families of former NFL players showed signs of the neurodegenerative disease, according to a new study published Tuesday.

In all, researchers from Boston University...

Researchers studying the link between football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy found that 99 percent of the brains donated by families of former NFL players showed signs of the neurodegenerative disease, according to a new study published Tuesday.

In all, researchers from Boston University...

(Rick Maese)

The most recent research at Boston University has shown that of 111 former football players examined, 110 have been found to have CTE.

The study acknowledged possible bias in the study as families that might have noticed symptoms of the disease while their loved ones were alive may have been motivated to cooperate with the study.

Nevertheless, out of 202 deceased former football players examined, including pros, college and high school players, researchers have found CTE in 177 of them.

With such mounting statistics, and more research continuing, the questions remains: Should children be allowed to play football?

As always it is parental choice.

When our kids were growing up, we never had to deal with the question of possible permanent brain injury because it wasn't known and our kids had little interest in youth football. In those years, the injury risk was broken bones and a possible concussion.

When CTE first became known in the public, it was thought that concussions was the culprit, and perhaps repeated concussions were the cause of the disease.

But more research has shown that it is repeated blows to the head, not necessarily multiple concussions that leads to the disease.

Concussion doesn't have to be part of football. But how does one ignore repeated blows to the head in a game that features it?

That's the game we've come to love.

Is it possible to teach football's fundamental skills to kids without all the equipment that perhaps encourages blows to the head? Can one learn blocking skills, running, throwing, teamwork without the contact?

It has been shown that one need not play football their whole young life to make it to the NFL. Many players have made it taking up the game later in life.

Later in life. That's a phrase to remember because everyone wants to get to later in life with their physical strength intact and their mental capacity intact.

But if the price to pay to play football is not just old nagging injuries to knees and backs but permanent, progressive brain injury, then the question remains: Is it worth it?

Adults of college age and NFL age can answer that question for themselves. But what about kids?

Randy Blaser is a freelance columnist.

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Source : http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/northbrook/news/ct-ppn-column-blaser-tl-0817-20170809-story.html

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