Playing tackle football before age 12 linked to neurological problems later in life
Children as young as nine can play tackle football in B.C.
Children who start playing tackle football before the age of 12 are twice as likely to develop emotional and cognitive difficulties compared with those who start later in life, according to a new study released Tuesday.
The report by the Boston University School of Medicine further fuels debates about the risk of concussions in contact sports and when, or if, children should be allowed to play.
In British Columbia, tackle football is open to children starting at the age of nine.
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Joe Gluska, the president of the B.C. Community Football Association, said although young children are playing the contact version of the sport, the rules have been changed to try to keep them safer.
"We've changed a number of the rules in regards to blocking and tackling and trying to eliminate that with the equipment," he told CBC Early Edition host Rick Cluff.
"At the championship level, we've taken out the kickoff and kickoff return."
'Rules are better'
Gluska said that in his decades of coaching youth football, the majority of children he saw who suffered a head injury while playing were not tackled.
"The kids that ended up with a head trauma fell on the ground and then they fell back and hit their head but that is everywhere," Gluska said. "Those types of issues can't be eliminated from any sport or activity."
Research by Boston University, however, suggests that athletes who engage in contact sports are more likely to sustain severe and recurring head injuries.
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Gluska said there is always risk in sports, but the game is much safer than it was for previous generations of children.
"It's not like when I started playing in 1960," he said. "Rules are better. Equipment is better. Coaches are better instructed — there is no leading with the head. The head isn't a weapon like it was back in that period of time."
With files from The Early Edition