'Concussion doctor' says allowing kids to play football is child abuse
Dr. Bennet Omalu, a forensic pathologist, identified the brain disease CTE in multiple football players, and was played by Will Smith in a movie about his life. (Source: AP/Evan Agostini/Innvision)
(RNN) – The doctor who discovered chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) said allowing children to play football is tantamount to child abuse.
Dr. Bennett Omalu, the doctor was portrayed by Will Smith in “Concussion,” a film based on his life, made the comments to SI.com after a study showed that 110 of 111 former NFL players who donated their brains to research suffered from CTE, an incurable brain disease linked to concussions.
CTE slowly destroys neurons in the brain, which causes effects similar to Lou Gehrig’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Omalu told SI that it’s impossible to make the game safer. He believes no one under 18 should be playing football.
“Someday there will be a district attorney who will prosecute for child abuse [on the football field], and it will succeed,” Omalu said during a New York Press Club talk. “It is the definition of child abuse.”
If you let your child play football, there is a 100 percent risk of exposure, he said.
But other doctors, coaches and athletic trainers believe that increased awareness of concussions, improvement in protocols to determine head injury, new helmet designs and new rules against using the helmet as a weapon have led to coaches teaching techniques that improve player safety.
“There is a danger, and there is a risk, but there are risks to life,” said Dr. Joel Pickett, a neurosurgeon with the Spine and Neurocenter at Huntsville, AL.
He told WAFF that evaluations are far more sophisticated than they were 20 years ago, when the coach would just ask the player if he remembered a play and knew what his assignments were, and that was good enough to leave him in the game.
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