NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There was some disturbing news Tuesday, for parents with children who play tackle football.

A new study found a link between youth football at an early age and certain brain disorders.

As CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez explained, it’s a much more subtle type of damage than we’ve heard about before.

It’s a link to impaired mood and behavior much later in life from playing tackle football at a very early age.

If kids are going to play tackle football, there’s a part of the game that it just unavoidable. Just ask Leo Gregory.

“This is why I had to pull him out. He had no idea, the force, he throws himself in there. He loves it. I don’t, I don’t like watching it,” Dani Gregory said.

Leo’s mom would be even more determined to keep her son from playing football had she known of a Boston University study in the journal Nature Translational Psychiatry.

It surveyed 214 men with an average age of 51 who had played tackle football in their youth.

Those who played football before age 12 had twice the risk of problems with behavioral regulation, apathy, and executive functions, and three times the risk of elevated depression scores than those who played after 12.

“This an age though to be very critical time for maturation of brain structures that allow us to think and feel and behave. Blows to the head that might disrupt the maturation of the brain could have lasting consequences,” Dr. Kristen Dams-O’Connor said.

Dr. Dams-O’Connor of Mt. Sinai’s Brain Injury Research Center said it was also concerning that those effects took years to show up and lasted well into middle age.

“It could be as simple as these early exposures are overlaid upon the effects of aging and that it manifests later in life with these clinically concerning symptoms,” she said.

What the study was not able to quantify is the number — if any — of concussions or head blows the men had sustained as youths, so there’s no way to know if there’s a correlation in that regard.

What’s becoming apparent from a number of studies is that tackle football before age 12 can lead to a greater risk for short and long-term neurological consequences.

Young brains are still developing into early adulthood, so even after age 12, there’s still a risk for brain issues.

 

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