Dr. Julian Bailes sees little risk of CTE from youth football

AP

A day after one of the doctors portrayed in the upcoming film Concussion came out in favor of a ban on contact sports for children, one of that doctor’s longtime colleagues says he has a different takeaway from their research.

Neurosurgeon Dr. Julian Bailes said on Tuesday that he disagrees with his colleague Dr. Bennet Omalu, who wrote in the New York Times on Monday that he believes children should be barred from football, hockey, boxing, mixed martial arts and other contact sports. Bailes believes that recent rules changes made at all levels of football mitigate many of the risks associated with the sport.

“I’m a big believer in the benefits of organized sports and the benefits of football. I have two children who play football and I believe football is safer than it’s ever been,” Bailes, chairman of neurosurgery at the NorthShore Neurological Institute, said on a conference call today.

Bailes said the risk of Chronic Traumatic Encephelopathy comes from pro football players slamming into each other thousands of times over the course of years, and not from the kinds of hits that children inflict on each other in a few Pop Warner seasons. Bailes also believes that the seemingly large numbers of former players who have been diagnosed with CTE come from those players’ brains being selected for research specifically because those players showed symptoms of brain damage. Bailes said only about 100 football players have been shown to have CTE out of tens of thousands who have played in the NFL.

“We don’t know the prevalence of CTE. I have said and I believe that CTE is a risk in a minority of NFL players and hopefully in a group of players who are in a now bygone era, meaning that the reforms in the NFL that began in 2009, as a result of our work and others’ work, has resulted in sweeping changes,” Bailes said. “Those that have been tested were those who the family brought forward after death thinking that they had CTE, thinking they were symptomatic, thinking they were showing signs and symptoms, so it’s a very skewed, very biased sample if you look at it scientifically or epistemologically. We don’t know the real prevalence.”

In Concussion, Bailes is played by Alec Baldwin and Omalu is played by Will Smith. In real life, Omalu has referred to Bailes as “my mentor” on studying head injuries in football. But Bailes and Omalu disagree about whether football is safe for children. Omalu says it isn’t, Bailes says it is.

48 responses to “Dr. Julian Bailes sees little risk of CTE from youth football

  1. Youth football is just a tad bit less violent than pro ball, and concussion are a lot less common. Not that there aren’t risks, but life is full of those either way.

  2. Wait — are you saying that Alec Baldwin is playing a role in a preachy liberal message movie?

    I’m shocked!

    Shocked, I tell you!

  3. Dr. Bennet Omalu thinks children should also be barred from ping pong, freeze tag and pillow fights.

  4. Until there is a baseline study to find out how common CTE is among the general population, this is all just conjecture. You can’t say football causes CTE until you know how common it is, what other jobs correlate, all kind of things. Saying we should ban youth contact sports outright is a huge overreaction by someone who is a CTE researcher. Someone who makes his money based on how important CTE is seen as a research topic.

  5. Players have gotten bigger and faster, which makes the impact of the hits have more velocity. What rules changes have made the game safer from concussions and sub-concussions, which happen on virtually every play. Dr Bailes when he says “we” means he is in The NFL’s pocket. Head Up…get certified after an hour. Sure….

  6. Neurologist Dr. Julian Bailes said on Tuesday that he just cashed a MONSTER check from the NFL to lie. In the comments on the check Roger Goodell wrote “Having a blast, wish you were here”.

  7. I don’t think it would be crazy to not allow children to play tackle football until 15 years old, kids any younger than that need to still be taught the fundamentals of football which could be taught playing flag football.

    The biggest thing people should be talking about is kids playing tackle football at the park with no protective equipment. I remember one Turkey Bowl we played, ground was frozen I tackle d someone who had 30 lbs on me from behind, my head hit the frozen ground then his hip landed on my head. the rest of the game I played on the line acting like I was rushing the passer but I was actually just trying not to fall over because I was so dizzy, had headaches for a week after and never told anyone.

  8. It really depends on coaching. Kids trying to fly around like NFL players leading with their head is not good, especially when the helmet weighs one-fifth of the kid.

    I grew up playing ice hockey starting in 2nd grade and checking and raising your stick above your shoulders was prohibited until we reached a certain age.

    The biggest risk was kids falling and hitting the ice – a much harder surface than turf or grass.

    So a similar prohibition to football would be no-contact, flag football, in my opinion, until kids reach a certain age. Pop Warner kids have no business colliding head-on.

  9. I think it’s best that we just lock all children in a closet until they are ready to go to college. This will keep them safe from the world.

  10. Post of the year
    —————————————-

    godfatherd says:
    Dec 8, 2015 3:10 PM

    Until there is a baseline study to find out how common CTE is among the general population, this is all just conjecture. You can’t say football causes CTE until you know how common it is, what other jobs correlate, all kind of things. Saying we should ban youth contact sports outright is a huge overreaction by someone who is a CTE researcher. Someone who makes his money based on how important CTE is seen as a research topic.

  11. In either case, they’re both giving an opinion. it’ll take years of research to find out more. Hopefully youth leagues & parents should use their due diligence to protect the kids who are playing, with equipment & techniques.

  12. For all those saying “risks are everywhere,” please get real.

    Of course there’s risk in everything, but there are clearly activities that make things RISKIER.

    For example, we’re all at risk of cancer by simply existing. Smoking cigarettes INCREASES the risk of cancer.

    Similarly, playing contact football at young age INCREASES the chance for head trauma because, as they say about the NFL, it’s about repeated blows to the head over time.

    The younger the kids start, the more repeatedly they may experience blows to the head over more time. Hello?

  13. Until the kids hit puberty around Jr. High/High School the doctor is likely correct. Athletically gifted girls for the most part are able to hang with youth boys and I don’t mean just as kickers/punters. Once high school comes around it’s a whole different ball game.

  14. Hey everyone children have a greater chance of dieing in a car accident on the way to school then getting CTE from playing football.

    #StoptheNannyState

  15. “For all those saying “risks are everywhere,” please get real.
    Of course there’s risk in everything, but there are clearly activities that make things RISKIER.
    For example, we’re all at risk of cancer by simply existing. Smoking cigarettes INCREASES the risk of cancer.
    Similarly, playing contact football at young age INCREASES the chance for head trauma because, as they say about the NFL, it’s about repeated blows to the head over time.
    The younger the kids start, the more repeatedly they may experience blows to the head over more time. Hello?”

    On the other hand, not exercising leads to dye-a beetus, which is an enormous epidemic in North American youth compared to the prevalence of concussions in youth football. The fact is the science isn’t as clear to suggest that children who play football are more likely to develop CTE compared to the normal population in the way that there IS evidence to suggest smoking increases cancer in relation to the general population. Primarily because the prevalence of the disease in the general population is not know.

    Drawing those sorts of conclusions may seem logical, however they are not supported by scientific evidence yet as far as I know.

  16. This guy is nothing more than a paid spokesman by the NFL to disagree with the other Dr. because he ripped the NFL a new one and justifiably so.

    The NFL, Goodell, NFL Owners, and everyone in the League Office are corrupt, lieing, scumbags.

  17. To say football is safer than ever is a safe statement itself, of course it is safer now. My question is how can anyone say they don’t know the real prevalence and yet dispute the findings of this limited research?

  18. The best is how the NFL and it’s current players promote it’s training clinics for kids teaching them the “Heads Up” tackling method, then 99% of them lead with their heads on Sundays when the real bullets start flying.

  19. heck, half of em don’t even tackle anymore, they go for the big hit, then the offensive player bounces off of them and continues to run downfield.
    Great fundamentals

  20. Any Dr. that says that CTE only occurs in the minority of NFL players is one that’s happily on the league’s payroll.

    The Shield had no problem buying a Dr. to try and discredit all of the evidence in JAMA when it didn’t like what the study said, either.

  21. Kids that are under 10 just can’t generate the kind of force regularly to do serious harm. When’s the last time you heard about a kid in a pee wee league getting taken off on a stretcher? It’s high school and above where everyone is big enough and strong enough to overcome the protections of the equipment

  22. Hockey is worse for concussions I think.
    Really you have to go by the league and see how they are being coached.
    Researchers look at the sample they have access to, and to just flat out say what you “think” the rest of the sample is with no science behind it is pretty crappy.

  23. There are millions of older women who never stepped onto a football field, that have brain issues. There are kids skiing, riding bikes, and skateboards who are going to the emergency rooms every day with head injuries. I’ve seen brutal head-to-head collisions in youth soccer, flag football, and basketball. People fall off ladders and slip on wet pavement and get head injuries. This is the biggest witch hunt in history. Youth Football is safe for kids. Once they get into high school, the hitting gets a lot harder, and that’s a different story.

  24. having played in high school and college i can say that the risk of injuries in general increases exponentially every level. It’s probably unlikely that a player below the college level is going to develop chronic issues unless they suffer a rare catastrophic injury.

    Having said that playing professional football is clearly not good for you. Almost every NFL player is nursing injuries by now and some teams have more than 10 players out for the season. You can’t say with a straight face that football is “safer than ever”.

  25. Key phrase…

    We don’t know the prevalence of CTE. I have said and I believe that CTE is a risk in a minority of NFL players and hopefully in a group of players who are in a now bygone era

    We don’t know
    I believe
    Hopefully

    He doesn’t know either.

  26. Is society going to get to the point that kids will not be allowed to do anything that could cause a concussion? I’m talking bike riding, skate boarding, skiing (water and snow), Basketball….please don’t try and tell me that players are not at risk to elbows and dangerous falls that are seen, when players hit their heads on the floor, Baseball…..happens in this Sport as well, and so on. Kids today….a majority of them…are in shocking shape. PE in school doesn’t even seem to be a priority anymore. Kids would rather play video and PC games, where the individuals in the games get all the exercise. Many kid’s health is at risk, especially as they grow older. When I was a kid, being in the house was a place where groundings were dispensed. Hell, kids really don’t get together and socialise outside of school. Social skills are going down the toilet. Kids would rather text, and then they don’t even use real words. Where in the hell is society heading? In order to protect our kids, are we actually harming them? The world is in danger of losing far more, than it is protecting. Obesity, over all ages, is quickly becoming a very serious health issue. The States is the worldwide leader in Obesity and, the U.K. is the European leader. Far more kids and Adults will die from weight issues, than ever from CTE.

  27. This point this guy is trying to make is that little kids aren’t as big, strong and fast as NFL players, thus the collisions aren’t anywhere near as violent. Half these youth leagues even have a weight limit to make sure nobody is overmatched.

  28. Hhmmm….
    sounds like an NFL stooge.

    Briles has all the information yet still denies the risks involved !!!

    Oh… well,

    Many parents are now keeping their children out of football. That number will increase after the “CONCUSSION” movie comes out.

  29. How many of you that say contact sports are bad for kids serve them GMO’s, sodas, fortified cereals, frozen dinners and of course fast food? Slow Kill!

  30. I think for a lot of these kids, the prospect of being rich and famous, even if they get banged up, seems alot more attractive than selling crack in the hood and dying in a drive-by.

  31. ebdug says:
    Dec 8, 2015 7:56 PM

    I think for a lot of these kids, the prospect of being rich and famous, even if they get banged up, seems alot more attractive than selling crack in the hood and dying in a drive-by.

    ——————————–
    exactly! listening to some of the NFL players giving interviews, they ain’t making it in the real world.

  32. You can still make youth football safer. Flag versions. Stand up offensive/defensive lines. 5v5 or 7v7 formats. Emphasis should be to put the kids in situations where they are developing and learning technical skills, laws of the game, etc. I’ve seen some horrible things in youth football, especially from dads and coaches who don’t know what they are doing. The biggest problem in the Pro’s today is lack of fundamentals and technical skills because Youth football has a very poor development system.

  33. Sorry but I’ve seen the potential problems and my kids will never be allowed to participate in contact sports. They can stick with soccer/swimming which are what they enjoy now.

  34. There are certain things people learn and know having played football that people who have not will never understand.

    Risk v. Reward.

    I took that risk because I was not afraid. It taught me to be a leader amongst leaders, I would have a harder time trusting a man who has never played football(or hockey), because in crisis mode, betas break, i’ve seen it and its incredibly frustrating.

    It takes courage, if you don’t understand I don’t fault you, but you have no dog in this fight, so “shhhhhh”.

  35. The question is….. What do you love more….. Your children or the game…. Very asinine to be risking children to this, a few decades ago it was cigarettes , all the people that said they were safe have now been shown as stupid ignorant and otherwise morons….. I would surly hope I would not risk my children’s health …… It’s not like it is absolute necessary that a kid play football. I will fall on the safe side of this until we know for sure…..

  36. Tackle with your eyes = not head/neck injuries.

    There’s no tackling in little league football. 1 kid runs away from the rest or they bump into eachother.

    Implementing fundamentally sound little league programs that are based on instruction, proper fundamentals, & coaching would better serve our children. Boys are going to play football and if you wait to participate then they won’t have to worry about tackling because they’ll be getting run the H over.

    Kids sports. Make it fun. Coach them. Parents participate. Learn how to properly tackle eyes in, low to high Never ever lead with your head.

  37. rav2327

    Sorry but I’ve seen the potential problems and my kids will never be allowed to participate in contact sports. They can stick with soccer/swimming which are what they enjoy now.
    ——————————————————————————-

    There are also “potential problems” in not allowing kids to participate in contact sports.

    Somebody could teach them how to properly play contact sports.

  38. My brother got a concussion when he wrecked his bike back when we were kids.

    Ban bikes.

    He got another one about 8 years later playing softball.

    Ban softball.

    He does suffer from occasional migraines. Now he is in his mid 40’s and he’s had 4 concussions that we are aware of. he lives a normal life and he’s been fairly successful. But I think he’d agree that you can’t take risk out of life. Risk is part of the deal. Some will instead chose to stay on the sidelines and live in fear rather than live life to it’s fullest.

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