Football helmet

Controversy is swirling these days around whether kids under the age of 12 should play tackle football. The dangers from repeated blows to a still-developing brain appear to be significant, especially when you consider that a child’s brain experiences crucial developmental changes between the ages of 10 and 12. Add to that fact the study of brains from former NFL players, published in July, 2017, in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study showed that 99 percent of the former players had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). You might recall that, two days after the study was released, John Urschel, an offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens, chose to retire at 26.

Some, however, argue that the study of the brains of NFL players has little relationship to what might apply to young boys. Dr. Robert Stern, a professor at the Boston University School of Medicine in neurology, neurosurgery and anatomy, and neurobiology, has remarked that “results from a group of NFL players might not apply to boys who do not go on to play professional sports.” A local doctor and Hereford Recreation Council coach Dr. Rich George agrees with Dr. Stern.

So, Who’s Right?

Unfortunately, at this time there is no study of either the brains of young football players or the brains of adults who played youth football. Research is sorely needed, but examining a brain for CTE can only be done once the subject has passed on. There is much we still do not know.

One medical professional is firmly on the side of not allowing tackle football until the age of 14. A clinical professor of neurosurgery at Boston University School of Medicine, Dr. Robert Cantu, has co-authored a book with Baltimore’s Mark Hyman titled “Concussion and Our Kids.” Hyman has commented, “I’m inclined to believe what medical experts are telling us, including experts in sports-related head trauma, like Dr. Cantu. Flag football is a better, safer option for children. Younger children aren’t ready from a physical standpoint for the punishment of tackle.”

What Are My Choices?

If your child wants to play football, it’s good to know that both Pop Warner and U.S.A. Football, the national amateur football governing body, have made some changes. U.S.A. Football in particular is radically changing their youth football game’s rules and procedures. Going forward, the game will more closely resemble flag football than the tackle game. Among the rule changes are the following:

  • There will be six to nine players, not 11, on the field.
  • The playing field will be smaller.
  • Kickoffs and punts will no longer be part of the game.
  • Players will use a crouching position, not a three-point stance, at the beginning of each play.

Locally, the football commissioner for the Towson Recreation Council Spartans, John Putnam, has indicated that the football program has been altered for greater safety. Tackling will be shoulder-first, not head-first, and strict protocols for concussions will be followed by the coaches. “We teach 10-step concussion protocols and we teach ‘heads up’ tackling. We’re very careful of the kids’ safety,” said Putnam. The recreation council has also begun a flag football program for young children who are 5 to 7 so that they can learn the basics about football.

Playing a team sport can be a great learning experience for your child. But no one really knows whether there will still be risks playing the changed forms of youth football. If you have a child who is eager to participate in in the game, it would be prudent to educate yourself about the issues.

How Can “The Injury Lawyer” Help You?

It can be difficult for victims and their families to negotiate the confusing emotional and legal territory of a brain injury. At the Law Offices of Steven H. Heisler, we know how difficult a brain injury can be for both the injured person and for his or her family. In our work to help victims of TBI recover compensation, we’ve become aware of the complexity of issues surrounding brain injuries in Maryland.

If you or a family member has been the victim of a brain injury, call Baltimore personal injury attorney Steve Heisler. Keep in mind, however, that there is a statute of limitations – or a time limit – for filing personal injury claims. If you have been injured in an accident or have otherwise incurred a personal injury, you should not delay. Contact the Law Offices of Steven H. Heisler of Baltimore, Maryland, for a free initial consultation by calling 1-410-625-4878 today.