Coaches, doctors react to study linking youth football to CTE - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Coaches, doctors react to study linking youth football to CTE

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Parents and young athletes have been weighing in on whether or not playing tackle football is worth the possible health risks.

A study released on Monday urges caution especially for children under the age of 12.

The Hartford Hurricanes are one of the most successful Pop Warner programs in the country. 

President Phil Bryant says the organizations biggest victories happen off the field because of the life lessons players learn.

“You've got the discipline determination dedication and the teamwork portion,” Bryant said.

Bryant said he's watched boys become better young men after spending time on the gridiron, but a new study shows playing football at a young age may cause significant issues later in life.

“It's a study and it deserves to be looked at and it deserves to be studied because we're taking talking about our kids,” Bryant said.

The study found that people who suffered from the brain disease CTE were much more likely to have memory issues along with emotional problems and behavioral issues at an earlier age if they played football before the age of 12. 

Although playing at a young age did not seem to make the symptoms any worse.

“I think like anything else in life you have to weigh the risk versus the benefit,” said Dr. Mark Alberts.

Dr. Mark Alberts, the Chief of Neurology at Hartford Hospital says the study which was commissioned by Boston University and the VA should lead parents to have conversations about whether they want young children to play.

“My advice to parents is to think long and hard about exposing children be they boys or girls to sports or activities that could potentially lead to repetitive brain trauma brain impacts things like that,” Alberts said.

Bryant said Hartford Hurricane coaches, along with Pop Warner coaches around the country are making the game safer every day. 

Now, national guidelines restrict young players from hitting for more than half an hour a week, and head on collisions have been banned from practice completely.

“What we're doing is a good thing and it's safe for kids. I think we need to say that a lot more,” said Bryant.

Bryant said as many as 350 athletes participate in his program every year and there have never been more than 10 concussions in any single season. 

Alberts believes the risk of injury is simply not worth it. 

The two men do agree every family has to weigh the positives and potential drawbacks themselves.

“Ultimately, it's a parents decision. I do not want to make the decision for them but I do want to give them proper information,” Alberts said.

The study was published in the Annals of Neurology, which you can read here.

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