As a parent or loved one of someone who wants to play football or any other contact sport, we want to make you aware of the real dangers repeated blows to the head can cause, and the devastating effect it can have on a person and his family. Every parent wants to give their child the best opportunities for success and to keep them safe. Patrick loved football and achieved much success playing it. The sport made him happy and helped him make many friends. He developed team-working skills and learned the benefits of hard work. He became confident, courageous and strong. It also gave him the opportunity to achieve an Ivy League education. But in turn, all those “hits” he endured on the field started a disease (CTE) in his brain that would grow over 10 years to ultimately destroy everything he worked so hard to accomplish. If he were here, he would tell you it wasn’t worth the price he paid, missing his son grow up and spending time with his family and friends.
If you are a parent or loved one to someone who has been exposed to a contact sport that involved hits to the head, or is possibly developing CTE, we hope to offer some information based on our experiences with Patrick. In his memory we hope to help those of you dealing with these problems understand and cope a little better than we did. We were unaware of his struggles and the disease that overtook him. We did not realize that his years of playing football had started a disease in his brain that would eventually ruin every aspect of his life. Had we known we would have done things differently and that is where we hope to offer guidance.
Take time to learn about CTE and how you can prevent this tragedy for your child or loved one. Research in the field is still in its infancy and it’s unknown as to why some people develop CTE more aggressively than others and if there are genetic factors that make some athletes more susceptible to the awful symptoms than others. Sadly, there is no known cure for CTE at this time. As a result, until more is known, the best approach is awareness and prevention. Patrick’s family used to watch him play football and hold their breath with every tackle—praying he didn’t get hurt and end his promising career. Now looking back, they wish he would have broken a leg and quit the game. Maybe he would still be here today. No parent wants to see their child’s head jarred thirty times every Friday night, yet it happens. We can’t bring Patrick back, but we can try to save others.
Need to learn more about the disease? Still wondering “What is CTE?”
Still Letting Your Kid Play Tackle Football? You May Want to Reconsider
By now you have probably heard of CTE or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a progressive, degenerative disease that destroys the brain. Most people associate it with military veterans, pro-football players and repeated traumatic, concussive blows to the head. But that’s far from a complete picture.
What Every Parent Needs to Know.
CTE is also caused by repeated sub-concussive blows, the kind that occur routinely when athletes head the ball in soccer, check each other in hockey, and hit and tackle in football. This means someone can develop CTE without ever sustaining a concussion. That includes children, who may be the most vulnerable of all. And CTE doesn’t typically develop right away. It can take decades, often presenting itself long after risky activity has ceased. Its symptoms include memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, paranoia, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and eventually progressive dementia.
How Concerned Should You Be?
If your child’s football team allows or promotes “full contact” hitting and tackling in training and scrimmages, you need to be very concerned. In fact, don’t drop them off. There’s a good reason that the NFL and Ivy League schools have virtually removed hitting from football practice. Youth soccer has also eliminated “heading.” Youth hockey has eliminated checking. And the Flag Until 14 movement (promoting flag football until 14 years of age) is gaining momentum.
It is only a matter of time before youth football follows suit and eliminates contact from practice, but until they take the steps to protect your children, your children are relying on you. Please don’t let them down.
How Real is the Risk?
For generations, American families have cheered from the sidelines as their children took hits and got their “bells rung.” Why all the concern now? Well, the sad fact is we didn’t know what we didn’t know. CTE can’t be diagnosed until after death, and if athletes developed erratic behavior later in life, it was easy to blame it on something else. That’s exactly what’s happened to us. Now we all need to know better.
Consider this recent study performed by the Mayo Clinic. They examined the brains of 63 people who had played contact sports. Twenty-one, or an astonishing 32%, were determined to have developed CTE. They examined an additional 195 brains from people with no history of contact sports. Zero had CTE. What’s that mean? The risk of CTE is high and very real. Yet it is also 100% preventable. Don’t play contact sports.
Don’t Settle for Less than the Complete Elimination of Blows to the Head
Perhaps because of the tradition, popularity and money associated with football, there is real reluctance to radically change the sport. Instead the industry is promoting new safety gear, rule changes and distractions such as “Heads Up Football”, presented as a “comprehensive approach to safer football.” But while these things may reduce risk, as long as there is potential for blows to the head, risk is still there. Don’t let anyone convince you to accept it. Your children and their brains are far too precious.
If you could hear the gut wrenching stories we hear every day from affected families through our foundation, you would understand our passion for stopping this terrible, degenerative disease.
Links for Parents and Loved Ones