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Study: Kids who played tackle football develop more mood, behavior problems

Another Boston University study shows potential detrimental effects of playing football at a young age. (WTOP/Noah Frank)

WASHINGTON — A new study released Tuesday in the journal Nature’s Translational Psychiatry revealed that children who began playing tackle football before age 12 experienced emotional and behavioral issues at higher rates later in life than those who did not.

The study comes from Boston University’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (C.T.E.) Center, the same group that found in a 2014 study that players exposed to tackle football before age 12 were more likely to display later-life cognitive impairment. The age 12 cutoff was determined by the researchers for their studies because of the key brain development that takes place in boys between ages 10-12.

Those who started playing youth football before age 12 were found to be twice as likely to have trouble regulating behavior and have issues with executive functioning. The same group was three times as likely to suffer clinical depression.

Significantly, the increased risk for these conditions was independent of whether the players continued to play through high school, college or professionally.

“This study adds to growing research suggesting that incurring repeated head impacts through tackle football before the age of 12 can lead to a greater risk for short- and long-term neurological consequences,” said Boston University’s Michael Alosco, Ph.D., the lead author of the study.


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