New PSA compares smoking to youth football

Indiana first state with concussion-related law

Indiana is making history on the high school football field with a new law focused on concussions and player safety. Lindy Thackston reports.

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- The Concussion Legacy Foundation is urging parents to stop children from playing tackle football until they are in high school.

The foundation just released a Public Service Announcement comparing youth football to letting kids smoke cigarettes. The kids in the video aren’t actually smoking and even the tackling is fake but the foundation hopes this PSA makes a real impact.

“That’s extremely powerful to see,” said Indianapolis mother Lana Rizzi.

Though her son Jackson is only 9 months old, she says people are already making comments about him being a football star one day.

“I don’t think you get pressure for your kids to smoke at 12 but you might get pressure for your kids to be in sports, especially if their friends are doing it,” said Rizzi.

In her family, football is a big deal.

“My husband grew up playing sports, and football so did his little brother and his dad,” explained Rizzi.

The PSA from the Concussion Legacy Foundation claims kids who start tackle football at age 5 vs 14 are 10 times more likely to get the brain disease CTE.

“Hitting kids in the head in a sport like tackle football when they are 5 years old is just as bad as having a cigarette," said CEO Chris Nowinski. "That’s how we need to look at it now that we have this new incredible data.”

Nowinski was a co-author of the new study by Boston University researchers that concluded the risk of CTE doubles for every 2.6 years of play after looking at 260 professional and amateur football players.

However, USA Football says, “Despite the Concussion Legacy Foundation’s claims, five of the six medical journal-published studies on playing tackle football before age 12 and later neurocognitive functioning did not find clinically meaningful associations. In addition, the country’s largest society of sports neuropsychologists states, “At this time, there is no research that causally links youth contact sport participation with a risk for CTE.”

“I can tell you as a neuroscientist and former football player that it is really not fair to hit children in the head 500 times a year while their brain is developing.," said Nowinski.

This PSA was directed and created by women who lost their fathers to CTE. One was the child of a pro football player, the other college.

“You have a father who can’t hold a job, you have a father with cognitive problems who can’t remember your friends, you have a father who might become aggressive and violent and it’s because they played too much football," said Nowinski. "We are trying to spare future families from the horrible disease.”

Rizzi said as a nurse who has been exposed to traumatic injuries due to football, she was already leaning toward saying no to the contact sport.

“I just think that the risk outweighs any benefits to it,” said Rizzi.

USA Football is creating a Football Development Model, where coaches teach the sport smarter and safer based on their players’ developmental readiness.

We plan to meet with USA Football soon to show how this works.

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