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Volume 24 No. 117
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Study Declares Playing Football Under Age Of 12 Leads To Health Issues Later In Life

Playing tackle football under the age of 12 "exposes children to repetitive head impacts that may double their risk of developing behavioral problems and triple their chances of suffering depression later in life," according to a front-page piece by Bob Hohler of the BOSTON GLOBE. The study was conducted by Boston Univ.'s CTE Center and was published yesterday in Nature magazine’s journal Translational Psychiatry. The research "provides the most powerful evidence to date that playing contact football before age 12 may cause brain changes throughout life." The study "stopped short of recommending policy or rule changes for youth football, stating that additional research is necessary." The new study "says the consequences include behavioral and mood impairments such as depression and apathy." In a statement, Pop Warner "appeared to cast doubt on the findings." Pop Warner said participants “played youth football 40 years ago. Youth football has evolved significantly since that period and the major changes Pop Warner has implemented have revolutionized the sport, making it safer and better than ever before" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/20).

CHILLING FINDINGS: In DC, Rick Maese reports younger football players were "three times more likely as those who took up the sport after age 12 to experience symptoms of depression." BU CTE Center Dir of Clinical Research Robert Stern, who co-authored the study, said that the findings were "not affected by the number of concussions the former players reported," meaning the dangers "posed by football can’t be boiled down simply to big hits to the head" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/20). In N.Y., Ken Belson notes the results of the study were "based on a sample of 214 former players, with an average age of 51." Of those, 43 "played through high school, 103 played through college and the remaining 68 played in the NFL." The study is "consistent with earlier findings by Stern and others that looked specifically at NFL retirees." That research "found that retirees who started playing before 12 years old had diminished mental flexibility compared to those who began playing tackle football at 12 or older." Participation in tackle football by boys ages 6 to 12 has "fallen by nearly" 20% since '09, though it rose 1.2% to 1.23 million in '15 (N.Y. TIMES, 9/20).