Americans are putting their children in harm’s way without a second thought, according to a new study. And it’s in the name of fun.
The source of such danger? Peewee football.
Besides the obvious injuries like broken bones that children (as well as adults) will get, there is a hidden danger that is come under recent scrutiny in light of brain injuries at the professional level.
It turns out children aren’t exempt either. Christ Whitlow, chief of neuroradiology at the Wake Forest School of Medicine, discovered a link between boys aged 8-13 and the amounts of hits they took between both games and practice.
To do that, he took male football players aged 8-13 and scanned their brains before and after the season. They went under diffusion tensor imaging, a form of MRI, which detects changes in white matter within the brain. In healthy white matter, fractional anisotropy (the movement of water through the brain) tends to be uniform. In brains with damaged white matter, the FA loses its uniformity. Damaged white matter often can be associated with brain injuries. The FA value dropped after the season for many of the boys.
Dr. Whitlow was startled by these results.
“These decreases in FA caught our attention,” Whitlow said in a press statement, “because similar changes in FA have been reported in the setting of mild traumatic brain injury.”
And these brain scans were in children who did not even exhibit outward signs of concussions throughout the season. Concussions are a traumatic brain injury where the brain slaps the inside of the skull and bruises, with obvious side effects like dizziness, vertigo, and short-term memory loss. A concussion can also exhibit no symptoms.
Concussions in the NFL have recently come under scrutiny in recent years in a wake of suicides inside the NFL as well as a movie, Concussion, starring Will Smith released in 2015. Concussion shines the light on the NFL’s secret sins by potraying Smith as a neuropathologist investigating the truth. Muscle and Medicine intros the movie like this:
Will Smith plays Bennet Omalu, the forensic neuropathologist who performed the autopsy of Hall of Fame Steelers center Mike Webster in 2002 while working for the Allegheny County Coroner’s Office. Webster died at age 50 after experiencing dementia and depression, and Omalu found in his brain the tangles of tau protein consistent with [chronic traumatic encephalopathy](CTE), which had previously been recognized in “punch-drunk” boxers.
The numbers are startling both for the NFL and PeeWee leagues around the countries. There are roughly 2,000 men inside the NFL and the recent article by Muscle and Medsd said 87 ex-NFL players have CTE. Howver, the amount more than 3.5 million children play peewee football. And since doctors like Dr. Whitlow are discovering the brain is already being disrupted by repeated hits to the head or falls inside the helmet. While the link between youth football and brain injuries has not been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, it should put the sport in a new light for parents.
And since doctors like Dr. Whitlow are discovering the brain is already being disrupted by repeated hits to the head or falls inside the helmet, it should put the sport in a new light for parents.