The topic of football concussions is a controversial one. If you’re a football player worried about the long-term health of your brain, it can be confusing to wade through all the information out there. Opinions range anywhere from people claiming that all the worry about football concussions is ruining the game to those who want to ban tackle football, for children (since kids who play tackle football sustain 15 times more head impacts than children who play flag football, according to the CDC).
In the past, “getting your bell rung” was nothing out of the ordinary in football — it was just the nature of the game. Players were expected to get back up, shake it off, and keep playing. However, the discovery of the link between repeated football head injuries and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in the brains of former professional football players by doctors Bennet I. Omalu and Julian Bailes in 2002 led to more research and awareness of the long-term dangers of concussions.
Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre joins our newest PSA begging parents to wait to enroll their children in tackle football until age 14. The PSA aims to educate parents on research showing that their child’s odds of developing Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) double every additional three years they play tackle football.
“Having kids play before high school is just not worth the risk,” says Favre, who started in a record 297 consecutive NFL games over 19 seasons and is widely regarded as the toughest man to ever play the game. "CTE is a terrible disease, and we need to do everything we can to prevent it for the next generation of football players.”
Read the White Paper, learn why age 14 is important, and discover the best ever NFL players who never played youth tackle football on our Flag Football Under 14 page.
What the research tells us about years of tackle football and CTE
While the overall prevalence of CTE in the high school football population is unknown and cannot be determined from a brain bank sample, the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank reports that 16 of 65 high school football players – who never played in college or professionally – have been diagnosed with CTE. 15 of the 16 players with CTE started playing tackle football before age 14.
The odds of developing CTE may increase by 30% per year of tackle football played, according to a 2019 Brain Bank study of 266 deceased football players published in Annals of Neurology. That means a high school football player who started at age five, instead of age 14, might have 10x the odds of developing CTE.
“A football player’s odds of developing CTE may be most determined by their parents, specifically what age the child is allowed to start playing tackle football,” says Concussion Legacy Foundation CEO Chris Nowinski, PhD, a former All-Ivy League defensive tackle at Harvard University.
“It’s time to accept that CTE is not just a risk for professional and college football players, but also for high school players, and the best way to prevent CTE among football players is to delay the introduction of tackle football.”
About the creators of the PSA
The Concussion Legacy Foundation (CLF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. CLF's mission is to support athletes, Veterans, and all affected by concussions and CTE; achieve smarter sports and safer athletes through education and innovation; and to End CTE through prevention and research.
Our vision is a world without CTE, and concussion safety without compromise. Learn more and help us achieve that vision using the links below.
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