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How Long have we Known Football Too Dangerous for Children?

How Long have we Known Football Too Dangerous for Children?

Football Too Dangerous for Children

By Attorney Gordon Johnson

Is football too dangerous for children? Football is an old sport in which there have always been injuries. Concussion is as old as the game, even if they didn’t know quite what to call a concussion years ago. As long as there have been smelling salts on the sidelines, there has been a recognition that brains made need a restart from time to time because of the games violence.

But does that mean that those who sponsor, promote and profit from football should be responsible for the dementia and other severe brain diseases that occur to those who play the game? How can sports leagues, high schools, colleges be held responsible for the effects of a disease, CTE or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy when the disease wasn’t named until 2006?

The answer is simple: dementia pugilistica. Ask any enlightened person, at any time in my lifetime, what happens to boxers who have fought to many bouts, you will get some version of the same answer: dementia pugilistica or punch drunk syndrome. The disease has probably been understood as long as there has been armed combatants, but from a peer reviewed medical literature standpoint, it has been clear what happens since 1928. That is the year that the Journal of the American Medical Association published an article on noting tremors, slowed movement, confusion, and speech problems typical in those who had taken too many hits.   See Martland HS (1928). “Punch Drunk”. Journal of the American Medical Association 91 (15): 1103–1107.

So what? What does dementia pugilistica have to do with CTE? CTE is just a new name for dementia pugilistica. It is the same disease, caused by the same phenomenon, too many blows to the head. The phrase “too many hits” is not just a boxing term, it is a cliché in football. Type in this search phrase: “too many hits” in football into Google and you will get more than 37,200 results, in .30 of a second.

On a side note, it is a misconception to say that the disease has not been known as CTE for more than the last decade. The term Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy was coined in 1966, where H. Miller described CTE thus:

“It seems on the other hand that this syndrome, graphically described as ‘punch-drunk’, is an authentic result of repeated cerebral injury”.

1966, Miller Proc R Soc Med. Mar 1966; 59(3): 257–261.PMCID: PMC1900757.

Did we need to also call it “tackle drunk” to realize that football players could have such “repeated cerebral injury?” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1900757/pdf/procrsmed00185-0080.pdf

Simple fact: children are more vulnerable than adults to all injuries, but particularly to brain damage. Should someone who is too young to sit in the front seat of a car be exposed to life altering dose of trauma? Today, more and more former players are saying they wouldn’t let their own children play football. Hopefully parents in our post CTE world will start listening to that advice. But who is most responsible for the dementia, behavioral problems and suicide – all which are hitting hardest, those who started to play tackle football with helmets at the youngest age? Those organizations that run youth football leagues.

Remember: Football Too Dangerous for Children

Next Football for Kids Benefits Don’t Justify the Risk of CTE


Attorney Gordon Johnson :: g@gordonjohnson.com :: :: Facebook :: 800-992-9447
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice

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