Just HOW Bad Is Football For Teens?

Did you know a couple of years playing football can actually damage your brain? In fact, a study shows that a high percentage of those who have played football AT ANY LEVEL (even high school or younger) had cognitive symptoms.

A study from Boston University has revealed yet again the devastating effects of football. The study, published in  the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), found CTE in 99 percent of brains obtained from National Football League (NFL) players, as well at 91 percent of college football players and 21 percent of high school football players.

Think about these numbers for a moment. Of the 111 players NFL players, 110 of them had evidence of long term brain damage in the form of CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). Basically CTE is chronic brain damage that persists and seems to present with worsening symptoms 10 years later. CTE is a scary diagnosis.


At Amen Clinics we conducted a study on active and retired NFL players. What we witnessed was heart-breaking. These players that had been celebrated as American heroes at one time were struggling to remember the names of people they love. Many had been arrested, and others had no money in spite of earning millions of dollars during the years they played for the league.

So as a parent, what are you to do when your child or teen insists on playing football? After all, football is the “All American” sport.   Now that we have indisputable evidence of the damage football causes to the brain, it should make the decision easier. As a mom I know how hard it can be to remain firm when your child starts guilt tripping you.

My husband recently dealt with this exact issue when a very successful businessman brought his son to our clinic. When the father said that he had hired a private football coach for his son to ensure being selected for the varsity team, Daniel was dismayed and explained the risks to the already struggling adolescent. The father replied, “But he really wants to play”. So Daniel asked, “If he really wanted to do cocaine would you get him a private drug dealer?” Of course the father was shocked. Daniel explained that the level of brain damage from football and other contact sports is the same level as that from using cocaine. We’ve seen it in over 130,000 scans – damage to the frontal lobes and temporal lobes. Here are just a few reasons to protect your brain, and the developing brain of your child or teen:

  • The frontal lobes control forethought, judgement, impulse control, empathy, executive function and ability to learn from the mistakes you have made.
  • The temporal lobes control learning, memory, mood stability, temper control.

Think about this… If you hurt the part of the brain responsible for mood stability and temper control, you may get some dark, evil thoughts. If you ALSO damage the frontal lobes, and can’t put the brake on your impulses – those dark thoughts will come out, causing you to behave in ways you never would have in the past.

We don’t want to believe that football has anything to do with brain injuries, but science now proves this. We don’t like to feel deprived of anything, but losing brain capacity is a life altering problem. If my child was nagging me to play football, I would try everything I could to find something else they loved to do. I’d encourage racquet sports, baseball or basketball.

On a positive note, if you or your loved ones already have a brain injury, you are not stuck with it! The brain can improve. If you place the brain in a healing environment often you can heal the damage, improve your memory, mood, sleep and attention.


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