Should schools ban football?
What dangers do concussions pose?
Concussions and their possible role in the development of CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, has put a spotlight on the dangers of tackle football. In recent years, posthumous examinations of multiple professional football players have revealed the athletes had
been suffering from the condition. Currently, CTE can only be diagnosed posthumously. However, the life-time risks for an average football player, especially one in high school, remain unclear.
CTE is a degenerative disease that involves a buildup of the abnormal protein called tao, which is also found in dementia patients and is associated with a breakdown of brain tissue. It's believed to be caused by repetitive trauma to the brain, especially concussions, according to the CTE Center at Boston University, and symptoms include memory loss, confusion, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, anxiety and progressive dementia.
Research is still preliminary.
Dr. Greg Canty, medical director for the Center for Sports Medicine at Children's Mercy Kansas City, said that the medical community should push to make the sport safe but found there was not enough factual evidence to point to completely banning high school football.
"It has been found in a hundred or so deceased athletes when the sample size of former athletes is in the millions," Canty noted. "We have no idea how to apply current information about CTE to youth or living athletes. We have concerns, but no definitive answers."
Canty also pointed out that the U.S. Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention have reported a "10-fold increase in reported rates of sports-related concussions over the past decade," but that many in the medical community believe this is due to increased awareness and not increased injury.
Pediatricians should focus on safety.
Canty acknowledges that all sports will carry some risk, but feels that until there is definitive proof that football poses a long-term danger to teens, parents should be the arbiters of their children’s activities. Until the debate is settled, Dr. Canty recommends that pediatricians work proactively to make the sport safer.
"If we eliminate football, what sport is next and what is our threshold?" Canty asked in the commentary. "Who is going to be responsible for defining 'safe play?'"
"I encourage pediatricians to look for ways to make all sports safer for our patients," Canty said. "Start by demanding certified athletic trainers at all sporting events. Be a resource for educating your community on sporting topics."
See the full story via ABC News.
Read the full discussion published via Pediatrics.
Learn more about the Center for Sports Medicine at Children's Mercy Kansas City.
Learn more about concussions here.