Concussions and Football

A new study finds no increased cognitive risk for playing high school football.

As a football program we take very seriously our responsibility to protect and grow the physical and mental health of our players. Over the past few years there has a been a lot of attention concerning the physical health of those who play football as it relates to concussions and brain injuries. As a result, there have been various changes in how we teach the game, run practice, and enforce rules to make the game safer. I believe this is a good thing  as we should do everything we can to make the game safer and to not just protect the health of student athletes but to grow and maximize their potential as adults.

However when looking at facts and various studies as it relates to football and the risk of head injuries and their long term effects there is no doubt that fear has taken precedence over making a decision based on seeing a fuller, clearer picture.  As a parent myself of four children, I understand the desire to protect them from harm. That is one of our primary jobs which is why as parents we setup up rules and boundaries for our children. My purpose in writing this is to equip you as parents with additional facts and opinions from knowledgeable experts so that the decision to allow or not allow your child to play football is based on a full knowledge versus media snippets, inconclusive studies, and unfounded fear especially as it relates to other activities we commonly allow our children to participate in.

A Minnesota-based female neurosurgeon Dr. Uzma Samadani shares a balanced, knowledgeable perspective through articles (http://strib.mn/1PFk9qZ)  her book, “The Football Decision”, and various speaking engagements. Below are a few facts that you may not be aware of:

  • A 40 year study by the Mayo Clinic tracked 438 football players compared with 140 non-football male classmates and found no increased risk of dementia, PD or ALS. In essence they found that those who played football had no greater risk than those who played in the band.  (Note: This is BEFORE spearing was banned and proper hitting techniques were enforced)
  • Horseback riding, bicycling, skiing, snowboarding, rock climbing, skateboarding and ordinary activities such as driving a car pose the same or greater risks as football as it relates to head injuries.
  • 83% of neurosurgeons and brain injury experts would allow their own children to play contact sports. Neurosurgeons were at least 16 times more likely than the average undergraduate student to have played contact sports in college, and 1.5 times more likely than the general population to have sustained a concussion.
  • An NCAA study showed that students who played college football had a lower suicide risk than college students who did not.
  • Another study found that CTE prevalence in people with neurodegenerative diseases (11.8%) was the same as in the control (12.8%)

I strongly urge you to watch Dr. Uzma Samadani presentation at https://goo.gl/nqP3Gf. In it, she provides a deeper analysis of the NFL study that neglected to include factors such as the long term use of painkillers which is known to cause dementia, alcohol abuse, obesity and family history of mental illness.  She also speaks on the importance of teaching our kids to manage risk behaviors in controlled environments so they can live fuller, richer lives as adults.

If your child wants to play football I hope that this information will allow you to make a decision that is best for them. But I do hope that decision is made after taking the time to research the full picture of this important issue.

Gene Teigland
Head Football Coach
North High School

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