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The Exchange

The Latest Research on Concussions Leads to Increased Scrutiny of Youth Sports


The research keeps piling up about concussions and contact sports, especially football, and some parents are reconsidering whether to let their kids play the game.  We discuss the latest research and its ramifications for parents, athletes and athletic trainers. Plus, current thinking on the recovery process, and how schools are assessing whether students are ready to return to play - or to the classroom.

This program was originally broadcast on Sept. 27, 2017.


  • Mike Atkins -Director of Athletics at Keene High School.
  • Dr. Stuart Glassman - rehabilitation medicine physician and concussion specialist at Granite Physiatry in Concord, and Medical Director of Concord Hospital's Concussion Assessment and Management Program. 
  • Teddy Nutting - Kennett High School athletic trainer.
  • Dr. Robert Stern - Director of Clinical Research at the Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center at Boston University. He is a senior author of the study linking youth football with a greater risk of later health problems.

Key Takeaways from BU's Study on Youth Football

Here are the key takeaways from a study by Boston University’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center on participation in youth football, from a Boston Globe article:

  •  Playing tackle football before age 12 exposes children to repetitive head impacts that may double their risk of developing behavioral problems and triple their chances of suffering depression later in life.
  • The possible consequences include behavioral and mood impairments such as depression and apathy.
  • The study does not recommend any policy or rule changes for youth football.
  • One of the study’s senior authors said he does not think children should play tackle football.
  •  The younger players were when they started playing tackle football, the greater risk they faced of developing problems later in life.
  • The study focused on 214 former football players who did not play any other organized contact sports. 103 played football only through college, 43 only played through high school, and 68 played in the NFL.
  • The study does not address the possible risks of children developing CTE.

Read about the study linking youth football with a greater risk of later health problems.

CTE study by Boston University

A recent study by the Chronic  Traumatic Encephalopathy Center at Boston University revealed that 110 of 111 deceased former NFL players’ brains donated to scientific research were found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy.  CTE is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma. And this study had troubling indications of CTE in brains from high school players.

Credit By Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy.

Read the New York Times story on the  CTE study.

The Boston Globe has extensive reporting on the CTE study, including a profile of Dr. Ann McKee, the director of BU's CTE Center, and articles on learning the symptoms of CTE, and detecting it in the living.

More Reading on Concussions:

A new study shows 40% of youth soccer players return to play after sustaining a concussion.

Another study on the frequency of concussions in teens may be as high as 1 in 5.

Listen to last year's Exchange program on concussions, including UNH's Eric Swartz, chair of the UNH Department of Kinesiology,who has been studying helmet-less tackling in practice at UNH and with area high schools.

Here's a video of UNH's Eric Swartz, talking about his helmetless tackling research:

Watch this video, presented by the Thorne Concussion Initiative, stressing "Recognize to Recover" aimed at increasing the recognition of concussion symptoms.


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