New research suggests that starting to play tackle football before the age of 12 can lead to behavioral issues and depression later in life.
The study, done by researchers at Boston University, found that kids who play tackle football in their pre-teen years are twice as likely to develop behavioral problems and triple their chances of dealing with depression as they grow up.
The full study was released in Nature's journal 'Translational Psychiatry' and can be read here: go.nature.com/2hgQfQf
"Kids at a young age, their brains don’t fully develop," Denver-based neurologist Shane Steadman said. "And if there is a hiccup in that development there could be a longer lasting effect."
Denver7 took the new report to practice with the Denver Eagles youth football team. They start kids as early as 9 playing tackle football.
"Player safety is our top priority," Eagles director of football Anthony Tapia said.
The Eagles and most Colorado youth teams subscribe to the USA Football approach, their safety standards, as well as their "heads up tackling" policy.
"It really emphasizes the use of your feet, your body position and your head being straight up, not ducking and causing any neck injuries, head injuries," Tapia said.
But what about parents? Several that we spoke to say they know and understand that youth sports come with risks, but because the game has gotten safer, they're not worried enough to make any drastic changes.
"He loves the game and I'm going to let him do it if he wants," one mom said.
"Let them play!" another dad said.
But new studies and more scientific research have made some parents change their mind. Tapia said he's seen a decline in enrollment for the Eagles, specifically in the younger ages, and thinks that more studies like this one could be impacting parents' decisions.