NFL doctor: Problem of CTE is 'being over-exaggerated'

0:49 | NFL
NFL Doctor: Youth football safer than riding a bike
Wednesday March 18th, 2015

Pittsburgh Steelers team neurosurgeon Joseph Maroon said Tuesday on NFL Network that the NFL and youth football have both "never been safer."

Maroon, who is also a consultant to the NFL's Head, Neck and Spine Committee, talked about the degenerative disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy and its effect on youth sports. A September 2014 report from the Department of Veterans Affairs’ brain repository found that 76 out of the 79 deceased NFL players examined were found to have CTE.

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"I think the problem of CTE, although real, is being over-exaggerated, and it's being extrapolated to youth football and to high school football ... We've reviewed all the cases of CTE from 1954 to August 2013. We came up with 63 total cases of CTE—​in the last two years a few more—but there have been 30-to-40 million kids who have played football during that period of time. It's a rare phenomenon," said Maroon.

On Monday, San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland announced he is retiring at age 24 due to concerns over "the long-term effects of repetitive head trauma."

Maroon said when an athlete is "fearful of any injury, it's time to get out."

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He also claimed that riding a bike or a skateboard is "much more dangerous" than playing youth football. He believes the sport has made positive changes in recent years that have improved its overall safety. 

"Having been associated with concussions over many years, I really believe that it's never been safer before in terms of the sport," he said. "The rules changes, the safer tackling techniques, the medical management of concussions is so much better than it's ever been in the history of the sport."


- Molly Geary

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