Yet another study shows that repeated hits to the head are bad for people. One can start young, or later, but getting cracked in the skull over and over eventually results in Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. The interesting thing about the study isn't the "no duh" realization, again, that getting hit in the head is not good for people, but rather why do parents keep letting their children play football?
How long can the one in a million, or worse chance, of making it big and then being able to play the sport professionally and almost guarantee some physical injury, if not to the brain alone, continue to be attractive? I have never found the sport to be that interesting. Folks choose schools over their great brain-trauma-inducing football programs. Why?
As researchers continue to conduct more research on how repetitive head impacts affect the brain, particularly in younger people, Stamm said there is no evidence that suggests exposure to impacts at a younger age increases the risk for developing CTE.
"If somebody had 5,000 lifetime impacts from age 8 to 18 versus 5,000 lifetime impacts from age 14 to 24, their risk would be the same," Stamm said.
However, when someone begins playing football as a young child and continues to play through adulthood, that is when their risk of developing the disease increases, Stamm said, adding that "total cumulative lifetime exposure to repetitive brain trauma is the greatest risk factor for CTE."
McKee adds that the longer someone plays football, in particular, their risk of developing CTE doubles every 2.6 years.
Experts say parents of young athletes should proceed with caution but not overlook the benefits of sports.
"I think for the parent that is wondering, 'Should my child play youth or high school football,' we have no evidence that there's going to be a long-term problem," says Dr. Steven Broglio, director of the University of Michigan concussion center. "It's kind of like smoking: the more you do it, the more your risk grows."