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What in the world is…CTE?


As we gear up for another school year and send our kids off to higher learning, one of the things on our to-do list might be gearing up for sporting seasons—particularly football season. But with all the news circulating about the dangers of concussions, and professional athletes even coming forward about fears of developing CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), parents should practice caution when sending their kids out on the field.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, American football remains one of the most popular sports for high school athletes, with over 1 million players. Even though head and neck injuries are common in this intense sport, football continues to be the number one participatory sport for boys at the high school level—although these numbers are dropping as parents gain more education about the long-term effects of injuries.

With any sport comes risk of injury, but football is known to carry the particular risk of repeated concussions, which can have cumulative effects. According to the AAP, “Some former athletes who participated in sports that involve purposeful collisions and repetitive blows to the head have suffered from mood disorders, behavior problems, cognitive difficulties, gait abnormalities, headaches, and Parkinsonism later in life.”

And it continues to make the news—from high schools increasing their safety efforts to former professional football players coming forward to talk about their fear of CTE. CTE can be debilitating and have life-changing effects for the individual and his or her family. In addition to behavioral changes, it is believed to lead to a gradual onset of dementia.

The good news is: Efforts are being made to increase proper strategies for reducing injuries. Hospitals like Adventist Health Simi Valley are partnering with local high schools to provide baseline concussion testing for student athletes. This testing measures and records several physical and cognitive parameters for each athlete which aids in the diagnosis and treatment if the athlete ever suffers a concussion in the future, allowing the doctor to compare the injury to their initial screening.

Additionally, there are things parents can do to make sure their kids stay safe not just for football season—but all sporting activities. Roy Schutzengel, M.D., at Adventist Health Physician Services in Roseville, California, says the best advice he can give to parents is to “know how ‘aggressive’ the program is that they are enrolling their child – actually meet the coaching team and observe a practice. Make sure appropriate protective equipment is being used and rules to minimize the injury risk are being properly followed.”


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