Football parents are going to wake up on brain injury research

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If your son plays football, the following statistic should scare the hell out of you.

Of 165 deceased men who played the game at some level during their lives, 131 have tested positive for the brain disease associated with head trauma, according to researchers from the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University.

The brains came from men who played professional, semi-pro, college or high school football.

There is no way that parents are going to stand by and let their sons play when more and more research shows a link between concussions and long-term problems.

I’ve found that, in general, people whose children play football don’t want to talk at length about the risk of lasting damage. They’re aware of the dangers and just hope their kids aren’t the ones who get the disease. My wife and I were the same way.

But as more information becomes available, more parents are going to say no to football.

“People think that we’re blowing this out of proportion, that this is a very rare disease and that we’re sensationalizing it,” said Dr. Ann McKee, who runs the brain bank looking into traumatic head injuries. “My response is that where I sit, this is a very real disease. We have had no problem identifying it in hundreds of players.”

The game is going to have to adapt to survive, not just in terms of tackling technique but in terms of linemen clanging helmets on every play. Extinction might sound overblown, given that the NFL is as popular as it has ever been. But it’s one thing to watch the Bears play the game, it’s another to watch your own son exposed to repeated hits. What happens when the pool of players shrinks to next to nothing?

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