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by Jen Slothower

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To raise IQ levels and ward off dementia, play Sudoku. To do the opposite, play football.

That’s the fear concussion experts are mulling these days as more is known about the damage that head injuries can cause. The more research uncovers, the less looks good about the basic motions that make up sports like football — and that’s without limiting the discussion to the level of hitting and intensity that occurs in the professional game.
The garden-variety kind of football that’s been present in the nation for years could, by itself, be harming athletes for life.

While some findings suggest millions of players could be incurring significant long-term damage just by playing a game, though, doctors and researchers emphasize that the work is far from complete. More studies must be done. Scientists must figure out why some people are affected and not others. Research needs to determine whether damage can be avoided, or whether that’s just the hope. The potential for trouble shouldn’t mean overreaction now.
But what is known at least gives a reason to pause, especially when it comes to youth sports. Research increasingly shows that young bodies and brains are susceptible to the same type of serious damage encountered by those who play professionally. And at that level, it’s no longer a question of choosing to take the known gamble of playing pro sports. It’s possibly subjecting still-developing brains to a permanent state of reduced functioning for just an after-school activity.

"Lasting Impact" looks at the growing controversy surrounding concussions and CTE, the degenerative brain disease that has been associated with the kind of head trauma found in sports.

Focusing specifically on implications for sports’ youngest players, "Lasting Impact" traces the many pieces of the modern concussion debate, including unique concerns for young people, the struggle to understand CTE, the NFL’s shaky past in framing head injury issues throughout football and across all sports, and how youth sports have responded to growing concussion concerns, including culture changes, fewer contact practices, laws and mandates, and equipment innovations. Finally, "Lasting Impact" weighs the major question that remains if the research proves to be as scary as some have suggested: If concussions are so dangerous, should sports where they occur regularly, especially at the youth level, even be played at all?

Featuring a wide view of concussion issues while detailing the many intricacies of the head injury discussion in youth sports, "Lasting Impact" takes the concussion debate out of the arena of those who play for millions of dollars and into the lives of the young players with much more at stake.

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