Kids playing football before age 12 show CTE symptoms sooner

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(CBS News) – A new study published in Annals of Neurology found kids who start playing tackle football before age 12 will, on average, develop cognitive and emotional symptoms associated with the degenerative brain disease CTE much earlier than those who start later.

A new study published in Annals of Neurology looked at the brains of 246 deceased amateur and professional football players. Two-hundred-eleven of them had the degenerative brain disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, which can be caused by repetitive hits to the head. The study showed kids who began playing tackle football before the age of 12 began showing cognitive and emotional symptoms associated with CTE an average of 13 years earlier than those who started after 12.

“It’s concerning because it was such a change,” said Dr. Ann McKee of Boston University, the study’s lead researcher.

“Childrens’ brains are rapidly developing between eight and 12 years old. They’re laying down new networks, they’re pruning the different connections. They’re sort of enhancing their brain,” McKee said.

The study also showed that for each year earlier kids begin playing football, their symptoms will progressively show up about two and a half years sooner.

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