ESPN journalist explains concussion concerns for parents

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COLUMBIA - ESPN investigative journalists share years of concussion research and how it could affect young athletes.

Steve Fainaru and his brother, Mark Fainaru-Wada, are New York Times Bestselling authors for the book "League of Denial: The NFL Concussions and the Battle for Truth." The two were also writers for the CBS Frontline documentary based on their book in 2013.

He said the NFL for years have denied that there was a connection between the head trauma associated with playing in the NFL and long-term cognitive issues.

Fainaru said this raises questions around the amount of risks involved in playing tackle football.

"Some neuroscientists have raised questions about the appropriateness of kids playing tackle football at a very early age. When you look at the levels of acceleration, the force that is generated even by these little kids it can actually be quite extraordinary and of course kids brains are not fully developed," said Fainaru.

However, he said the science behind football related concussions is still in the very early stages.

"Making the decision to let your child play football is a very personal decision," said Fainaru.

He said the most important things parents can do is read the literature out there, research the subject, and also read testimonials from people who have made similar decisions. 

The Missouri State High School Activities Association has a fact sheet for parents on concussions. They also released a 2013-14 MSHSAA brain injury report. In 2011, Missouri passed a law that requires youth athletes with concussions be removed from play until the athlete is released by a licensed health care provider.

"Some people have gotten brain damage and had their entire identity destroyed," said Fainaru.

Mother Caitlyn Morris said she doesn't think it's worth letting her son play football.

"Everyone tells me [he] would make a great linebacker, but I tell them I'd rather see him in other sports," said Morris.

Both journalists will be speaking tonight at the University of Missouri as part of DigiHealth 2015: Using Digital Media to Tell Stories and Improve Health. The event is free and starts at 7:30 p.m.

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