Football harms young brains
Children who play football before age 12 are much more likely to suffer emotional, behavioral, and cognitive problems later in life than those who take up the game when they’re older, The Washington Post reports. Neuroscientists from Boston University conducted a series of cognitive tests on 214 people who played football at various levels: high school, college, and professional. The people who started playing before 12 were twice as lik ely to have problems with self-control and executive functions, including judgment and problem solving, and three times as likely to develop symptoms of depression. These effects appeared regardless of how long and to what level they went on to play; the younger they started, the worse the risk. The researchers noted that concussions weren’t the only issue—the normal impacts that occur with blocking, tackling, and crashing to the turf have damaging cumulative effects. “Between the ages of 10 and 12, there is this period of incredible development of the brain,” says co-author Robert Stern. “Perhaps that is a window of vulnerability. It makes sense that children whose brains are rapidly developing should not be hitting their heads over and over again.” Amid growing evidence linking football to neurological disease, participation in the sport among boys ages 6 to 12 has dropped 20 percent since 2009.