Concussion expert Dr. Bennet Omalu says children should not play football

Concussion expert Dr. Bennet Omalu says children should not play contact sport.
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Dr. Bennet Omalu, the neuropathologist who first discovered chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) after performing autopsies on deceased Steelers players, has written an opinion piece for The New York Times arguing that children should not play football or other contact sports until they are of consenting age.

The article comes less than a month away from the debut of Concussion, a film that tells the story of the discovery of football-specific head trauma starring Will Smith as Bennet.

“Over the past two decades it has become clear that repetitive blows to the head in high-impact contact sports like football, ice hockey, mixed martial arts and boxing place athletes at risk of permanent brain damage,” Bennet writes. “Why, then, do we continue to intentionally expose our children to this risk?

“If a child who plays football is subjected to advanced radiological and neurocognitive studies during the season and several months after the season, there can be evidence of brain damage at the cellular level of brain functioning, even if there were no documented concussions or reported symptoms.”

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He goes on to say that if a child were to continue to play football over many seasons, the damage to the brain would accumulate, causing irreversible damage or CTE.

Bennet also notes that, depending on the severity of the brain damage, the child could be at risk for symptoms of CTE such as depression, memory loss, suicidal thoughts and actions, loss of intelligence and dementia later in life. The disease is also linked to substance abuse in people over 20.

Bennet argues that if an adult decides to participate in harmful activities such as smoking or playing high-impact contact sports, he has the freedom to choose to do so. However, Bennet questions whether or not children, who are not of consenting age, are being endangered when allowed to play sports such as football.

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In Bennet’s opinion, children should be given the time to fully develop and receive education regarding the risks of playing football, so that they can make their own decisions about participating in the sport.

”No adult, not a parent or a coach should be allowed to making this potentially life-altering decision for a child,” Bennet writes.

- Xandria James