Brain injury study renews focus on youth football

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.- There is renewed concern for the safety of kids who play football, after a report released Tuesday showed a staggering rate of traumatic injury to the brains of deceased NFL and college football players.

That report showed that out of 111 brains of deceased players studied by scientists, 110 were found to have signs of CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which is a degenerative neurological condition caused by repeated head trauma.

Now, the focus is returning to kids playing youth football and other contact sports to make sure they are being kept safe.

“I think they make sure the helmets are alright and the pads are right and they teach them how to hit,” said Casey Rhyne, whose son plays youth football for the Franklin Flashes.

“It’s very important,” said Rhyne, “He’s just a sixth grader and so his head is still growing.”

Tuesday’s report showing an almost 99-percent occurrence rate of CTE in the brains of deceased football players studied by scientists is again putting the spotlight on preventing head injuries in kids playing contact sports.

“Keeping the players safe is clearly one of the most important aspects of my role as league commissioner,” said Mitch Still, who also coaches for the Franklin Flashes. He said all coaches under USA Football, which governs the Franklin Flashes, get extensive training to prevent and treat head injuries.

“I’ve seen the progression, the old mindset of toughen it up, get back on the field,” said Still, “to being really careful when a kid exhibits any type of injury or perceived head injury.”

Scientists are still working to understand more about CTE, in particular when it starts and how much, or how little, trauma can cause it.

That study is also continuing to see if there are any genetic factors when it comes to developing CTE.

In the meantime, experts say it’s up to parents and coaches to keep close watch over kids of all ages who play contact sports and call a doctor if they start exhibiting any symptoms that may be associated with head trauma.