Lisa McHale is getting the word out to parents: Don’t let your kids play contact sports that can result in head injuries and brain damage. She won’t let her sons participate in Pop Warner football any more.
The New York Daily News this week printed an interview that McHale did with a Tampa TV station, WTSP-TV, where she talked about her crusade. For those who don’t know, she is the widow of former Tampa Buccaneers lineman Tom McHale, who came to unfortunate end. He sustained a traumatic brain injury, and died of a drug overdose in 2008.
McHale donated her late husband’s brain to Boston University, where scientists are doing research about the incidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, CTE, in athletes. CTE is a degenerative brain disease whose symptoms include depression, memory loss, and emotional and cognitive problems. Tom McHale was diagnosed with the disease postmortem.
WTSP news reporter Noah Pransky did a report on kids and head injuries, where he interviewed Boston University research Dr. Robert Cantu. The doctor said that children and youths under 14 should not be playing sports the way they are currently set up, with tackling in football and body checks in hockey.
The fact of the matter is that kids’ brains are still developing, and therefore are much more susceptible to long-term brain damage from head injuries. According to the Daily News, Cantu explained that children’s brains are not fully protected by myelin, which safeguards neurons.
In addition, Cantu noted that children’s necks are a vulnerable point, that they “are not yet proportional to their head size until the teenage years,” the Daily News wrote.