"The overwhelming majority of people whose brains are hurt are going right back in and doing the worst thing possible: getting hit again and again," Goldstein said.
The research was presented in New York City in conjunction with a new campaign from the Concussion Legacy Foundation to discourage the participation of kids under 14 in tackle football.
Goldstein and foundation cofounder Chris Nowinski said that playing flag football before the age 14 would reduce injuries to young players while allowing them to learn the game's fundamentals. They were flanked by NFL Hall of Famers Nick Buoniconti and Harry Carson and Oakland Raiders legend Phil Villapiano.
Nowinski, a former professional wrestler who is now a neuroscientist at Boston University, noted that the U.S. Soccer Federation forbids kids younger than 11 from heading the ball, and that USA Hockey outlawed checking in the sport for kids younger than 13. Youth football leagues should follow that trend, he said.
"Football has been open season on your child's head from the time they're allowed to play," said Nowinski, who was an award-winning defensive tackle during his college days at Harvard.
"We should be paying attention to all hits," he said. "And in kids, all the hits should be no hits."
For some parents and coaches, that may be difficult to imagine. But studies like the one published Thursday should help drive the message home.
"Football coaches are coaching these kids to help them," Nowinski said. "Their hearts are in right place. They just need to be educated about what scientists are finding. This is really preserving the future for football."
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