Are you ready for some football?
Our favorite teams are back – even if it’s only technically “preseason” for the NFL, and we’ll have to wait a couple of weeks for the “official” start of the pro season.
But that’s not all, because this time of year coincides with “Back to School,” which means that you may be spending your Friday nights and Saturday afternoons on the bleachers, watching your grandkids play youth football.
That’s an exciting time for anyone with a young athlete in their lives.
But scientists from the Boston University School of Medicine are raising some new concerns about contact football – and there are some simple things we should all do to keep the kids we love safe.
Researchers recently looked at hundreds of brains from deceased athletes and the famous Framingham Heart Study.
And they found that as little as eight years of contact sports – like football or ice hockey – dramatically raises the risk of Lewy body disease.
Lots of kids end up with eight years of football (or hockey) under their belts by the time they finish high school! And you can imagine how many times they get clocked in the head.
Now, Lewy body disease isn’t discussed very often, but it’s basically a combination of Parkinson’s and dementia.
It affects everything from movement to your ability to think and remember. And repeated blows to the noggin can trigger the disease later in life.
Now, I’ll be honest with you. I’m not one of those anti-football doctors (although more and more of my colleagues fall into that camp). I’m actually a big football fan.
My clinic is near Gillette Stadium, where the New England Patriots play, and I’ve even treated members of the team.
So, when I look at the issue of brain conditions and contact sports like football, I think awareness is key.
Many parents, grandparents, and even coaches don’t immediately recognize the symptoms of brain problems like concussions. And hurt kids (even college and professional athletes) keep getting sent onto the field, where the injuries compound.
Some of the most obvious signs of concussions include:
• headaches or pressure in the head,
• ringing in the ears, and
• “seeing stars” or feeling like you got your “bell rung.”
If your grandchild experiences any of these symptoms – whether during practice or a game – it’s important to get him off the field and have him seen by a medical professional.
And make sure his coach is committed to doing the same. (Lots of youth and high school programs now require concussion training for coaches, which I think is a GREAT idea).
A little bit of caution can go a long way toward preventing problems down the road.