The Concussion Legacy Foundation is making waves after releasing a chilling PSA on YouTube that compares kids playing tackle football to taking up smoking. As someone who played contact sports for most of my life, I was certainly a little taken aback by the commercial at first. However, if you dig into the injury stats behind tackle football, specifically, the Concussion Legacy Foundation might have a point.
The group shared the video with the caption, "Tackle football is like smoking: the longer you do it, the greater the danger. If you are a parent, we strongly recommend you delay enrolling your child in tackle football until the age of 14." While seeing our little ones go head-to-head in their little pads and uniforms may be cute, it can have long-lasting effects on our kids. According to the clip, kids who begin to play football at age 5 versus 14 are ten times more likely to get the brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE for short.
According to a 2017 study out of Boston University, children who played tackle football before the age of 12 had an increased chance of "risk of problems with behavioral regulation, apathy, and executive function" and were three times more likely to have "clinically elevated depression scores."
Robert Stern, one of the study authors, echoed the sentiment that tackle football can cause irreversible damage when played at a young age. "The brain is going through this incredible time of growth between the years of 10 and 12, and if you subject that developing brain to repetitive head impacts, it may cause problems later in life," he said. While the ad isn't necessarily suggesting kids quit altogether, sticking with flag football for as long as possible might be the best of both worlds.