With concussions on the rise, some experts say it’s time to change the rules when it comes to kids and contact sports.
New figures find emergency room visits by children and adolescents with sports-related brain injuries have shot up 36 percent, according to Dr. Robert Cantu, a neurosurgeon and one of the world’s foremost authorities on brain injuries.
Cantu says young people are much like bobble-head dolls and don’t have the neck strength to handle the force of contact sports.
“Young brains are housed in big heads on weak necks and the same amount of force to a youngster will impart much more injurious effects to the brain,” Cantu tells CBS News.
In an effort generating some controversy, Cantu is calling for an end to tackle football for kids under 14.
“Teach the skills of tackling, just don’t bash bodies and bash heads and bring people to the ground. Use tackling dummies to learn the skills,” Cantu says. “In ice hockey, it’s simply body checking is out before the age of 14. And in soccer, this one’s going to be a little tough for some, I’d eliminate heading because it’s in the act of heading that almost all head injuries happen.”
In a conversation on Seattle’s Morning News, KIRO Radio’s Tom Tangney questions whether people would be willing to change a game that’s considered such a part of American culture, even with the doctor’s recommendations.
“It’s like trying to outlaw bullfighting in Spain. It was seen as part of their cultural identity. Bullfighting is starting to go out of favor but for centuries it wasn’t. What an uprooting,” he says.
At the kids level of play, a 12-year-old versus a 12-year-old, Tangney says it’s not like they’re getting hit by Dave Wyman or a pro linebacker.
Seattle Morning News Anchor Linda Thomas says she agrees with the doc, hits on a dummy might be better than hits on kids.
“I think this doctor is offering a really good compromise. You can still do all that, learn those skills, but on practice dummies not other kids.”