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Sports Medicine Feature

Source: Wikimedia Commons and Tobias Kleinlercher

High School Football OK to Play Says Mayo Study

Biloine W. Young • Wed, January 4th, 2017

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The long-term health of men who played high school football has been unaffected by that high impact sport according to a recent study by researchers at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota. As reported by Dan Gray, writing for Healthline News, playing varsity-level high school football does not carry an increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases compared with other varsity-level sports.

Researchers analyzed the long-term health of 486 student athletes who had played high school sports between 1956 and 1970—296 had played football and 190 had competed in other sports. Students in both groups experienced head trauma, mild cognitive impairment, Parkinson’s disease and dementia but playing football did not appear to carry a significantly higher risk.

But there was a risk. The percentage of former student athletes who experienced head trauma was slightly higher among those who had played football (11% vs. 7%). “It’s somewhat reassuring,” said Gregory Landry, M.D., a pediatric and adolescent primary care physician from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. He noted the small sample size and the fact that football has changed a great deal since the ’50s and ’60s.

Landry says that present procedures are a marked contrast to the way concussions were treated in the past.

“I don’t think we recognized that some of these relatively mild head injuries were indeed concussions and that when that happened, a player shouldn’t be in the game,” he told Gray. “I think that players, coaches, and parents are recognizing concussions much more readily. Any impairment in mental function after a head bonk is a concussion, and athletes should not be practicing or playing if they’re impaired in any way.”

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