The doctor who is credited with discovering the condition chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) (and who was portrayed in the film Concussion by Will Smith) has some strong words for those who allow kids to play football. He says it's "the definition of child abuse."
However, football isn't the only dangerous contact sport for young brains, according to forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu. He believes that "there is no reason whatsoever that any child under the age of 18 should play the high-impact, high-contact sports."
The doctor includes soccer, boxing, hockey, wrestling, mixed martial arts, lacrosse and rugby in this category. He details the serious, long-term health consequences that can result when still-developing brains are subjected to repeated blows.
Although parents today are often aware when their child suffers a concussion, Omalu notes that the average student-athlete with a recognized concussion has already suffered multiple "sub-concussions" -- maybe as many of thousands. If enough damage is done to the brain, it cannot fully regenerate. This can affect a person's intelligence as an adult.
Researchers have found that children who suffered even one concussion that was serious enough to land them in the hospital were as much as four times more likely to suffer from a serious psychological illness in adulthood and to commit suicide. They're also more likely to have drug or alcohol problems, to engage in criminal behavior and to be unemployed.
Of course, participation in sports and physical activity, in general, is healthy for kids. So what are safe options for parents who want their kids to be active and reap the benefits of team participation?
Omalu says, "We need to develop more brain-friendly, healthier types of sports." Sports like swimming, volleyball, track and field and even basketball are generally non-contact sports. Participants can still suffer serious injuries while participating in any of these sports. However, they're less likely to suffer blows to the head than they are in contact sports.
Parents rely on schools and their employees -- particularly coaches and other team officials -- to do everything possible to ensure the safety of their kids. This includes getting them proper medical attention if they are injured.
If you believe that their negligence contributed to your child's injuries, it's important to determine what your legal options are for holding them responsible. This can help you get the compensation you need for short-term and long-term medical needs and damages.