Youth Football Could Be Riskier Than We Thought

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Bob Hallinan

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              For years, doctors like Michael Rippee, a neurologist at The University of Kansas Hospital, have worried about the hazards of youth football…mostly from the risk of concussions. But new research shows there are measurable brain changes in children after a single season of playing youth football…even when they have not been diagnosed with a concussion.

             The study, published in this month's edition of the journal Radiology, adds to the growing debate about whether or not children should be allowed to play contact sports.

Despite the study's small size, tracking only 25 youth football players between the ages of 8-13 over the course of just one season, it is the first research to look at this age group and find players still experienced structural changes to the white matter in their brain despite having no concussion diagnosis during the season.

            In the video, Dr. Rippee says he’s not surprised by the study, and thinks it will lead to much more research. He also talks about the kinds of brain changes seen in the study, why this could be eye-opening for parents and his advice for them. He also explains what he thinks is a safe age for kids to be introduced to full-contact and what coaches and leagues can do to make youth football safer. The video also shows youth football players in action.