As a parent of children in 2018, Marc Malusis has an important choice to make: does he let his sons play football? Malusis’ wife does not want them to play given the research that has been conducted over the last decade and beyond regarding CTE and brain trauma.
Malusis asked a CTE expert for his opinion on the matter.
“The greatest lesson that we’ve learned is that it’s really not appropriate to hit children in the head hundreds of times,” Concussion Legacy Foundation CEO Chris Nowinski said on Taz & The Moose. “All these sports were intended for adults, and they need to have kid versions while their brain is young and developing to not hit them in the head hundreds of times. We actually got heading banned in soccer before 11, there’s no checking in ice hockey before 13, and if we’re taking football, I would say flag football until high school. That will give your kids the best chance of success, but also the best chance of a healthy brain.”
Youth football registration is down nationwide, but lacrosse registration has increased. There’s no question which sport is better from a safety standpoint.
“Yeah, especially before high school – and even during high school – lacrosse is a safer sport,” Nowinski said. “You will have concussions, but they don’t tolerate all the head hits. I was just recently down at US Lacrosse. They’re really on board with making their sport a safer sport. For a little while, it started to get a little rough and tumble, and they’ve pushed that back. I think lacrosse has a very bright future as long as we keep policing these head shots. But football, you can’t tackle somebody to the ground without getting your head hit multiple times.”
Ultimately, Nowinski believes the NFL is at a crossroads and has an important choice to make.
“If they keep trying to fight this idea that you have to wait to play tackle and they keep trying to recruit our 5-year-olds to tackle football, we’re going to keep finding high rates of CTE in the football population,” Nowinski said. “If they get on board with (only playing flag football until 14), it might save football down the road. Our math says you would prevent most cases of CTE if you didn’t play youth tackle football. It’s really up to football.”