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Playing Tackle Football Before Age 12 May Speed Up CTE

According to a new study, the younger a kid hits the gridiron, the earlier they're likely to suffer from CTE.

C Watts

A new study finds that children who play tackle football before age 12 could experience symptoms of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) earlier in life than kids who hit the gridiron at a later age. The study was conducted by researchers from the VA Boston Healthcare System and the Boston University School of Medicine and published in the Annals of Neurology.

According to the Washington Post, researchers found that for “every year younger an athlete begins to play tackle football, they could experience symptoms associated with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy two-and-a-half years earlier” as an adult. Meaning that if someone hits the field before age 12, they could begin seeing signs of CTE a full 13 years earlier than someone who waited until they were a teenager to play.

“Youth exposure to repetitive head impacts in tackle football may reduce one’s resiliency to brain diseases later in life, including, but not limited to CTE,” Dr. Ann McKee, director of Boston University’s CTE Center, said in a released statement. “It makes common sense that children, whose brains are rapidly developing, should not be hitting their heads hundreds of times per season.”

Over the past few years, researchers have repeatedly found that tackle football poses huge long-term health risks for anyone who plays, especially children. Last year, Dr. Bennet Omalu, the first person to publish findings of CTE, said that letting anyone under the age of 18 play contact sports should be considered child abuse. Several states, including California and New York, have recently considered banning tackle football for kids in order to ensure children are not putting their long-term health at risk for the love of the game.