The Washington Post (9/19, Maese) reports that “children who play football before age 12” later experience “mood and behavior problems” at “significantly higher” rates than those who begin playing football when older, according to a new studypublished in Nature’s Translational Psychiatry. Those who began their football participation before turning 12 had twice the rate of “problems with behavior regulation, apathy, and executive functioning” and “were three times more likely…to experience symptoms of depression,” the Post says the study found.
The New York Times (9/19, Belson, Subscription Publication) says the research is likely to contribute “to the debate over when, or even if, children should be allowed to begin playing tackle football.” The Times adds that the study “was based on a sample of 214 former players” averaging 51 years of age, and 68 of the athletes played in the NFL.
USA Today (9/19, Perez) reports that the study’s lead author, postdoctoral fellow Michael Alosco of the Boston University School of Medicine, said in a statement, “This study adds to growing research suggesting that incurring repeated head impacts through tackle football before the age of 12 can lead to a greater risk for short- and long-term neurological consequences.”
The New York Daily News (9/19, Red) says the study concluded, “Youth exposure to football may have long-term neurobehavioral consequences. Additional research studies, especially large cohort longitudinal studies, are needed to better understand the potential long-term clinical implications of youth American football to inform policy and safety decision-making.”
STAT (9/19, Tedeschi) quotes one of the study’s co-authors, Robert Stern, as saying the research has “tons of limitations” and lacks sufficient evidence to prove football was the cause of the athletes’ behavioral problems. Nonetheless, Stern said the research was enough to raise the question, “Does it make sense for my kid to be hitting his head several hundred times per season?”
TIME (9/19, Gregory) says the study’s release comes amid nationwide reports of declining youth football participation due to safety concerns.
— “Study shows playing football before age 12 can lead to mood and behavior issues,” Rick Maese, Washington Post, September 19, 2017.