For years I have been advocating for the safer prevention and management of concussions, particularly but not exclusively among the young people in our schools and colleges. At the same time, as a pediatrician, I am concerned about obesity prevention, fitness and good healthy habits and would not discourage any good, salutary physical activity.
So it is with some hesitation that I express concern about Dr Robert Cantu’s recent position at a FIFA conference in Europe where he “urged the outlawing of tackling in football, heading in soccer and body-checking in ice hockey in youth matches” in players under age 14. My concern is that this will be construed as an extremist call to discourage the love of these sports in kids.
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As a pediatrician specializing in adolescents and a mother of seven young adults, I am acutely aware of individual developmental differences. If we looked at a line-up of normal fourteen year olds they could vary by 50 pounds in weight and 8-10 inches in size.
To make a blanket recommendation about sports based on age alone, which I do not believe is substantiated by any current research but represents Dr Cantu’s opinion, is to invite criticism from skeptics and nay-sayers about current concussion recommendations.
The cause of improved management of traumatic brain injury and concussions is best served by more research combined with good common sense. Perhaps Dr Cantu’s recommendation is borne of the “common sense” approach. To be fair, Dr Cantu and his colleagues in Boston are involved in important studies and research to bring more investigative science to this discussion.
In the mean time, most states have now developed strong recommendations for public schools to follow and have begun raising awareness about this newest public health issue—concussion prevention and management. We all need to support safety without harming the greater cause of sports and athletic participation for our young people.