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‘Concussion’ Doctor: Impose Age of Consent on Football

Jason Scott

Dr. Bennet Omalu, the real-life doctor at the center of the upcoming Will Smith film ‘Concussion,’ penned an op-ed for The New York Times arguing for a unique approach to football’s concussion problem.

His proposal: impose rules that would require children to reach the age of consent before allowing them to participate in football. 

“We have a legal age for drinking alcohol; for joining the military; for voting; for smoking; for driving; and for consenting to have sex,” he writes. “We must have the same when it comes to protecting the organ that defines who we are as human beings.”

Omalu is credited with proving that NFL players are likely to develop the brain disease CTE as a direct result of football activities. 

In his op-ed, he argues that high-impact contact sports, like football and boxing, can lead to the development of CTE, and that the risk of permanent impairment due to this condition is higher because the brain cannot cure itself after injury.

“We are born with a certain number of neurons,” he says. “We cannot create new neurons to replenish old or dying ones.”

Omalu cites other behavior-related health discoveries to support his argument. Cigarette smoking is harmful to your health, alcohol can damage developing brains in children, asbestos can cause serious diseases like cancer. 

These discoveries have led society to change its collective behavior.

“As we become more intellectually sophisticated and advanced, with greater and broader access to information and knowledge, we have given up old practices in the name of safety and progress,” he writes. “That is, except when it comes to sports.”

Omalu says it’s the role of physicians to inform and educate the adult public about the dangers of these behaviors, but not to prevent them from exercising the choice to, for example, smoke cigarettes.

His suggestion would make football an activity that only adults could choose to participate in, once they’ve been educated about the inherent dangers.

“When we knowingly and willfully allow a child to play high-impact contact sports, are we endangering that child?” he asks.

According to Omalu: “We should at least wait for our children to grow up, be provided with the information and education on the risk of play, and let them make their own decisions.” 

{module Football Age Limits}

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