Dr. Robert Cantu, noted concussion expert and chief of neurosurgery at Emerson Hospital and the co-director of Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, has published a new book that puts forth several controversial recommendations to help prevent youth-sports concussions.
In “Concussions and Our Kids,” Cantu suggests restricting youth-athletes under the age of 14 from playing tackle football, body-checking in ice hockey, or heading soccer balls.
The author was recently interviewed by EdWeek, where he defended age 14 as a magic number.
“Some people at age 14 are physiologically 11 or 10,” he said. “Other people are skeletally mature adults. So, the age is not perfect, no age would be. I chose it simply because that means high school and above. You have to start playing sports at some point similarly to the way you’re going to play them in college, if you plan to play them at college. I use the age of 14—and don’t have any problems with 16 or 17 if [the student-athletes aren’t] skeletally mature—but the reason besides that is the increased vulnerability of youngsters. They’re bobble-head dolls with big heads and weak necks.”
He was also asked, “What’s the No. 1 thing parents need to know about youth-sports concussions?”
“Youths are particularly vulnerable to concussion compared to an adult,” he said. “…and repetitive head trauma is just asking for a permanent brain injury. So, don’t be paranoid about it if your child receives a concussion. One concussion, most probably, will not have long-lasting implications. It could, in a rare situation, but most likely won’t. Understand that cumulative trauma is what sets people up for later-life difficulties. It’s not just the number of concussions, it’s the total amount of brain trauma that a youngster has taken.”