Photo courtesy of Evelyn McCallion

Many student-athletes in the United States play tackle football on a field at the beginning of fall, usually ending the season in January, including the thirty-three players at Carrboro High School.

Is it possible that playing football at a young age has an impact on brain development? To respond to this question, you must first understand football.

When tackling in football, the individual being tackled may be struck in the head.These Constant head strikes will be followed by concussions.  

A concussion is a type of brain damage induced by a blow to the head. Know that getting hit in the head causes concussions, but what happens when you are hit in the head repeatedly over the years? This is when CTE enters the picture.

The exact definition for CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) is a progressive brain condition thought to be caused by repeated blows to the head, or repeated concussions. It’s most commonly linked with contact sports like American football. The majority of current research is based on ex-athletes.

Although we have a decent concept of what causes CTE, there is no proof that receiving multiple hits to the head causes CTE. Although there is no proof, older athletes who had multiple concussions had CTE that worsened over time, eventually killing some of them. 

So, based on the knowledge about CTE and concussions, you can make an informed assumption that CTE will be caused by repetitive concussion exposure. Despite the fact that this is a hypothesis, many other things that we learn on a daily basis are hypotheses that we know are true. For example, the notion of tectonic plates shifting continents and causing earthquakes is correct, yet it is only a theory.

Josh William, a 16-year-old junior former football player at Carrboro-Chapel Hill High School, was questioned. Josh was asked if he was ever hit in the head. “No, because I played defense. I am not getting hit, I am hitting people.” Josh then was asked if he ever heard of CTE. Josh replied with, “Never heard of CTE .“  

Josh is unaware of CTE or concussions because he has never suffered from either. Is it thus safe to play football? Because avoiding head injuries is beneficial to both your health and the activity.

Leland Robinson, a 14-year-old freshman football player at Carrboro-Chapel Hill High School, was questioned. “How does it feel to tackle people?“ Leland replied, “It’s fine, you legally get to hit people.” FInally Leland was asked if he ever was hit in the head, how the blow to the head felt.“ It hurts more than getting hit anywhere else. But you can get back up after . “ Leland has experienced a concussion but is unconcerned about it. Is this hazardous to the game of football? Because Leland is just 14 years old and is already suffering from concussions, which do not appear to affect him.

So, how does playing tackle football influence your learning ability? 

According to a study conducted by experts at the BU School of Medicine, practicing young tackle football may contribute to the emergence of cognitive, behavioral, and emotional problems earlier in life. Researchers interviewed the families of 246 deceased football players and discovered that those who began playing tackle football before the age of 12 exhibited symptoms an average of 13 years sooner than those who began playing at the age of 12 or older.

According to the study, each year younger that athletes began playing tackle football linked with an earlier development of mental impairments by 2.4 years, and behavioral and mood disorders by 2.5 years.

Although tackle football may cause brain damage in certain athletes, the injuries do not occur or apparent until later in their lives. Playing tackle football at a young age has an impact on your capacity to learn is exaggerating. So, in the long run, sure, but not at the current moment.