When a child shows interest and passion for a contact sport, it’s difficult for a parent to say no. But new research about the liklihood of concussions while playing high impact sports may be enough for more parents to have kids hold off on encouraging these activities until they’re a little older.
Today reports about new warnings from a renowned concussion doctor regarding contact sports for all children under the age of 18. Dr. Bennet Omalu, a forensic pathologist whose story of discovering chronic traumatic encephalopathy was portrayed in the Will Smith movie “Concussion”, warns parents that sending kids out to play certain sports can pose a serious health risk.
Dr. Omalu lists the “big six” most dangerous sports that he believes children should not be allowed to play until their brain has matured more around the age of 18. The six sports are football, wrestling, boxing, ice hockey, mixed martial arts and rugby. Omalu also cites lacrosse as a very risky sport for kids under 18. The doctor even takes issue with soccer and believes that young children should play a less dangerous version of the sport. Dr. Omalu explains, “Soccer as it’s played today should be played by only children who are above the age of 12-14. Children younger than that should play a modified form of soccer, whereby there’s less contact. Maybe we make the balls bigger and lighter so that there’s less accidental injury.”
Consequences of suffering a concussion as a child can have lasting and serious affects when the child reaches adulthood. Dr. Omalu cites the finding from a Swedish study that followed over one million children for 41 years. They found that those who suffered just one concussion as a child are more likely to die before age 42. And adults who had concussions as children are 2 to 4 times more likely to commit suicide and deal with mental health problems like major depression. They are also less gainfully employed, suffer diminished intelligence, more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol or engage in violent behavior.
So, after checking off all the sports that the doctor says your child should steer clear of, you may be asking what is left. Dr. Omal recommends less contact sports like swimming, basketball, tennis, track and field, and table tennis. Though there are still risks with every sport, these sports tend to have less rates of injury and concussion.
Dr. Omalu believes that by changing the way we look at sports we can greatly reduce the number of children suffering from concussions each year. He says, “We need to develop more brain-friendly, healthier types of sports. We have elevated sports to the level of a religion. We’re in denial of the truth.”
What do you think of this doctor’s recommendation that children under the age of 18 refrain from playing contact sports?
Do you discourage your kids from taking part in certain sports?