Brett Favre Warns Parents Against Letting Kids Play Tackle Football Too Young: 'Not Worth the Risk'
Parents should consider the potential danger of traumatic brain injuries when deciding to allow their children to play tackle football, legendary NFL quarterback Brett Favre argued as part of a campaign with the Concussion Legacy Foundation released this week.
"Having kids play before high school is just not worth the risk," the 51-year-old said in a statement, Tuesday. "CTE is a terrible disease, and we need to do everything we can to prevent it for the next generation of football players."
Favre, who played 20 seasons in the NFL and won Super Bowl XXXI as the starting quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, is the focus of a poignant video from the Concussion Legacy Foundation.
In the video, two actors — a child and a teenager — play a young Favre, who tells his parents about the chances of him developing chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disorder caused by repeated concussions.
"The more years I play, the more I'm at risk," the young Favre says. "If you put me in tackle today, by the time I'm a senior in high school, I would have played 13 years of tackle football. I could already have CTE, and it will continue to destroy my brain, even after I stop playing."
As defined by the Centers for Disease Control, concussions are traumatic injuries generated by hits to the head or body that cause the brain to bounce around the skull. Football players may experience many concussion-causing blows throughout their careers. Repeated concussions can lead to CTE, which is characterized by long-term effects such as trouble concentrating, memory problems, and depression.
"I don't know what normal feels like. Do I have CTE? I really don't know," Favre said in an interview on Today on Tuesday. "Concussions are a very, very serious thing, and we're just scraping the surface of how severe they are."
"[There is] no telling how many concussions I've had, and what are the repercussions of that, there's no answer," he continued.
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Recently, former NFL quarterback Jay Cutler said he believes he is experiencing memory loss after playing 11 years in the league.
CTE has been a controversial topic for the NFL. While not all football players develop CTE, it is widespread — in a 2017 study of the brains of 111 deceased NFL players, a Boston University researcher found 110 of them had the disease.
"A football player's odds of developing CTE may be most determined by their parents, specifically what age the child is allowed to start playing tackle football," Chris Nowinski, co-founder and CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation, said. "It's time to accept that CTE is not just a risk for professional and college football players, but also for high school players, and the best way to prevent CTE among football players is to delay the introduction of tackle football."