Doctor Who Researched Concussions in Football Players Says Kids Shouldn’t Play Contact Sports Until They’re 18

You wouldn’t let your child drink a glass of cognac or smoke a cigarette, so why would you send him out on a football field to risk brain damage?

It’s a question Dr. Bennet Omalu — a forensic pathologist whose discovery of chronic traumatic encephalopathy was portrayed in the Will Smith film “Concussion” — wants parents to consider.

He warns that children who play football, hockey and lacrosse could face a lifetime of health consequences and details his findings in his new book, “Truth Doesn’t Have a Side: My Alarming Discovery about the Danger of Contact Sports.”

“We need to develop more brain-friendly, healthier types of sports,” Omalu told TODAY. “We have elevated sports to the level of a religion. We’re in denial of the truth.”

What do you want parents to know about contact sports?

Omalu: Knowing what we know today, there is no reason whatsoever that any child under the age of 18 should play the high-impact, high-contact sports.

The big six are: American football, ice hockey, mixed martial arts, boxing, wrestling and rugby. Blows to the head are intrinsic to the game. That truth could be inconvenient, painful and difficult, but we should not deny it.

What’s your view on lacrosse and soccer?

Omalu: Lacrosse has one of the highest concussion rates across all sports. It’s a very dangerous sport — people need to know that. I also don’t think kids younger than 18 should play it.

As far as soccer, there should not be any heading below the age of 18. Soccer is a high-dexterity, high visual-spatial coordination sport. You need very high levels of brain functioning to play it and children have not attained that level of brain development. 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.

Which sports are safe for kids?

Omalu: The non-contact sports: swimming, track and field, volleyball, basketball, table tennis, lawn tennis, badminton — there are so many of them. There is still a risk of accidental injury. You have to play safe.

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SOURCE: A. Pawlowski
NBC News / Today