Concussion tracking would help research effort
The suicides, other early deaths and cognitive impairments of many former NFL players have spawned some aggressive new research into the long-term health effects of contact sports.
For the most part, though, the research has focused on the professional sports level.
As noted by the neuropathologist Dr. Ann McKee, who has led the research regarding the NFL, there is little research on the effect of collision sports on young players. Based on her own studies, she told the PBS documentary show "Frontline," she would recommend that any child younger than 14 not play tackle football.
Recently the National Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council has issued a report on the risk of concussions in youth sports, revealing vast gaps in the data that are needed to reach definitive conclusions and craft effective responses to the risks.
What already is known justifies greater research. For example, the number of people 19 and under treated in U.S. emergency departments for concussions and other non-fatal, sports- and recreation-related concussions and other brain injuries increased from 150,000 in 2001 to 250,000 in 2009.
The researchers called for a national system to track sports-related concussions to accurately assess the risks, especially for youngsters who begin playing contact sports before high school.
Such a system should be established, making reporting a requirement for youth leagues and school teams, through the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.