Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre makes powerful plea in a new public service announcement discouraging tackle football for kids under 14 years old.
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The QB joined the Concussion Legacy Foundation to share the risks of playing tackle football. The PSA says the longer kids play tackle football, the more likely they are to develop CTE.
CTE is chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a brain condition that is progressive and fatal. It is associated with repeated traumatic brain injuries, including concussions and repeated hits to the head.
“Having kids play before high school is just not worth the risk,” says Favre, in a release from the Concussion Legacy Foundation. ”CTE is a terrible disease, and we need to do everything we can to prevent it for the next generation of football players.”
Favre, 51, started in a record 297 consecutive NFL games over 19 seasons and is considered one of the toughest men to ever play the game.
“I can be fighting depression, struggling to keep my thoughts straight,” Favre says in the PSA. “I can become violent, even towards my own children. When I’m your age, what will matter to me is not my youth football career, but that like you I’m a great parent and I can provide for my family.”
The foundation behind the PSA says its mission is to “support athletes, Veterans and all affected by concussions and CTE; achieve smarter sports and safer athletes through education and innovation; and to End CTE through prevention and research.”
“Research continues to show us that the long-term effects of repetitive brain trauma from tackle football can be catastrophic,” the foundation’s website says. “Meanwhile, football experts – from coaches to Hall of Fame players – remind us that you don’t need to start tackle young in order to become a great football player. Until tackle football is proven safe for the developing brain, we urgently recommend flag and other non-tackle versions of football before age 14.”
In a study led by Boston University, researchers concluded that the risk of developing CTE is not linked to the number of concussions, but instead with the number of years playing tackle football.
In another study, new data focused on teenagers shows that 25 percent of high school football players had CTE, even though their playing careers did not extend further. The study from the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs, Boston University and Concussion Legacy Foundation Brain Bank look at 65 players and found 16 with CTE. One of those 16 players with CTE started tackle football after age 14.
Doctors cannot definitively diagnose CTE until after a person dies, making research on the disease often difficult.
The PSA does not say children need to totally avoid football, recommending parents allow their children to play flag football instead.