Study finds no increased cognitive risk for playing high school football
Players up to the high school level aren't at greater risk for long-term risks, according to the study
Much has been made about the dangers of playing football, to the point that some parents have bemoaned letting their children even play Pop Warner. However, according to a study from JAMA Neurology, players up to the high school level are not at risk for long-term cognitive or mental damage. The question that the study seeks to answer is: "Does playing high school football have a statistically and clinically significant adverse association with cognitive impairment and depression at 65 years of age?"
In order to answer this question, the study was conducted among 3,904 men that averaged 64.4 years of age. It utilized the "Wisconsin Longitudinal Study among men who graduated high school in 1957." According to this study, there "was no statistically or clinically significant harmful association between playing football in high school and increased impairment or depression later in life, on average." In essence, men that played football in high school did not experience cognitive issues later in life.
There is, of course, a critical flaw in this study on the surface: Football has changed from the way it was played 60 years ago. Players are faster, hit harder and tackles often emphasize leading with the helmet over wrapping up (despite league efforts at all levels to curb the practice). Although protection has gotten better, helmets are often used as a weapon. With that being said, this study claims that despite all of these factors, the risks are still largely the same in the modern game as they were in the 1950s. It should also serve to reassure those who have played football in the past that were concerned about long-term effects.
Future repercussions won't be known until many years down the line, when those who have played football reach ages where these ailments would begin to present themselves. The study didn't tackle college or professional athletes, where the prevalence of Chronic Traumatic Encephelopathy in former players has created concerns about the future of football.
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