Football, age 12, cognitive capacity: Study says earlier play could be especially dangerous.

NFL Vets Who Played Football Before Age 12 Have More Cognitive Problems, Study Finds

NFL Vets Who Played Football Before Age 12 Have More Cognitive Problems, Study Finds

The Slatest
Your News Companion
Jan. 28 2015 6:21 PM

NFL Vets Who Played Football Before Age 12 Have More Cognitive Problems, Study Finds

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Robert Stern, senior author of the study, at a Senate hearing in 2014.

Win McNamee/Getty

A study of 42 former NFL players suffering from "cognitive problems" found that those who'd begun playing football before age 12 performed "significantly worse" on mental tests than those who hadn't started playing until they were older. The study was conducted by researchers at Boston University's School of Medicine.

While this study only covered former pro players, other research has shown that "children and adolescents are more vulnerable than adults to poor outcomes and prolonged recovery from concussions," the study says. "Preliminary work" by the same researchers, they report, also indicates that football players at all levels (not just NFL) who'd begun playing before age 12 "self-reported significantly worse executive function, depression, and apathy" than others.