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New Studies Link Youth Football to Early Symptoms of CTE

Pop Warner and other youth tackle football leagues are popular throughout the country. Each year, thousands of aspiring young football players sign up to play the game for their first time. However, new research on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) might leave some parents questioning what age their child should be when they start playing tackle football.

Signs of CTE More Prominent in Youth Footballers

According to a new study published in the Annals of Neurology, kids who started playing tackle football before the age of 12 displayed symptoms related to chronic traumatic encephalopathy an average of 13 years earlier than other players. VA Boston Healthcare System and Boston University's school of medicine conducted the study.

The study showed that among the 211 players – out of 246 total – who were diagnosed with CTE after their death, the ones who played tackle football before the age of 12 experienced cognitive, behavioral, and mood symptoms earlier than players who waited until after age 12 to start playing football. The consequences of the aforementioned symptoms can be catastrophic to day-to-day life. Struggling to pick up new skills, difficulty retaining information, and exertion to focus intently for extended periods of time are not uncommon for people with developing and worsening cases of CTE. When everything is considered, holding gainful employment can be an impossibility, requiring the individual to obtain long term disability insurance benefits.

A child who played tackle football under the age of 12 would likely experience early onset cognitive problems and behavioral issues about 2.4 years earlier than a child who began playing later. This problem was compounded in that each year of play pushed the 2.4-year onset another year forward. For example, a child who played for three years would likely begin to show symptoms a full 7.2 years earlier.

A Closer Look at the CTE Study Results

Dr. Ann McKee, director of Boston University's Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center, appeared on ESPN's “Outside the Lines” to discuss the findings of the study. According to her, the findings reveal that those who play tackle football after age 12 demonstrate more resilience against brain disease later in life. McKee said this new data “shows the health of the brain was changed by playing football before the age of 12.” This is useful in that it indicates the brain is still developing in many important ways around this age group.

Dr. McKee also suggested the argument that “players should play even later than 12, maybe 18, when they are adults and can make fully informed decisions.” As she noted, players who are older have more mature bodies and are more likely to be capable of playing the game with the skill required to avoid traumatic head injuries.

Long Term Disability Attorneys Representing Football Players

Dabdoub Law Firm is a nationwide disability law firm with a history of representing NFL players obtain total and permanent disability benefits from the NFL’s disability plan. If you played youth football in past years and have since been diagnosed with CTE, then our legal team wants to hear from you. With our extensive experience with this specialized field of law, we may be able to determine if you are eligible for long term disability benefits or compensation through a lawsuit.

Contact our disability and ERISA lawyers today to learn more about your options and our legal services. Remember: We help clients nationwide fight for fair treatment and long term disability benefits.