Tackle football before age 12 linked to mood, behavior problems

A study by Boston University finds that even non-concussive hits can harm developing brains.

A new study suggests that children who play tackle football before age 12 are at greater risk of depression and cognitive difficulties as adults than those who take up the sport later.

The research, conducted by Boston University’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center, shows that youth football players double their risk of developing mood and behavioral problems and triple their chances of suffering depression as adults. They are also at greater risk of having difficulty with problem-solving and organizing as they age.

The study, published Tuesday in the medical journal Translational Psychiatry, is the latest research in recent years linking football to brain injuries – including at the youth and high school levels.

“Between the ages of 10 and 12, there is this period of incredible development of the brain,” Dr. Robert Stern, who co-authored the study, told The Washington Post. “It makes sense that children whose brains are rapidly developing should not be hitting their heads over and over.”

Participation in tackle football among 6- to 12-year-old boys has dropped 20 percent since 2009, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association. Meanwhile, flag football has seen an increase of 225,000 youth players nationwide since 2014, the Post reported. Data on youth football participation in Maine is not available.

Paul McCarthy, 47, the president of Windham Youth Football, said he’s often wondered why tackle football starts so young. McCarthy said it’s probably a matter of competition. If one town has tackle football for second-graders then other towns feel the need to follow suit.

“As a parent and as someone who has (had a child go) through the program, if you wanted to have flag football up until middle school, I’m not opposed to that,” McCarthy said. “I don’t think it stunts them athletically, and honestly I wouldn’t be surprised to see some organizations going that way with some of the studies that have come out.”

Windham has flag football for first-graders, with tackle programs for children as young as second grade.

Westbrook Youth Football has close to 120 participants in its K-6 program, including 42 in the K-3 flag football program. Kim Fickett, president of the board for the league, said her son began playing tackle football in first grade. He’s now a seventh-grader and playing for the Westbrook Middle School team.

“It’s a great avenue. He loves it,” Fickett said. “I’ve been involved in it since he started because I wanted him to be safe. Nowadays these kids aren’t hitting that hard. There are concussions, but concussions happen in any sport.”

The Boston University researchers studied 214 former football players, whose average age was 51. Importantly, the study’s findings were not tied to the number of concussions the former players reported. Stern, a neuroscientist, said their results reinforce earlier studies showing that repetitive, non-concussive hits can have an impact on the brain – particularly among younger athletes.

“I really wish I could say I was surprised,” Stern told espn.com, adding that he doesn’t “think there should be youth tackle football.”

Dr. William Heinz, a Portland orthopedist and former chair of the National Federation of State High School Associations’ Sports Medicine Advisory Council, offered a similar assessment in a 2014 interview with the Portland Press Herald.

“Younger than junior high, they don’t need to play tackle football,” Heinz said. “They need to learn positioning and foot skills, and you can do that with flag football. There’s absolutely no reason these kids are tackling.”

Youth football organizers say they are taking steps to make the sport safe for their participants.

“What we as a league have looked at, and agree with, is having limited contact in our tackle program, which supports a lot of studies out there,” said Jim McGowan, president of the Portland Youth Football League and a coach at the fourth- and fifth-grade level. “We’re limiting contact to only once during the week and then during games on weekends.”

McGowan emphasized that the Portland Youth Football League, with about 290 participants in grades K-8 including its growing K-6 flag football program, has instituted several safety-related changes. New this year is a partnership with Maine Medical Center to provide a certified athletic trainer at all home and away games. The league also has a safety director who coordinates athletic trainer coverage and other medical needs, provides its participants with helmets, and follows USA Football instructions on how to teach tackling.

“We understand that to further football you’ve got to be aware of all the (research) out there,” said McGowan, whose son started playing tackle football in the second grade and now plays on one of the league’s fourth-and-fifth-grade teams.

And what do youth football officials say to concerned parents?

“I just say it’s up to the parents’ (comfort) level. We do try to do everything that we can to keep these players safe,” Fickett said. “If there is any suspicion of concussion or any other injury, we pull them out.”

Steve Craig can be contacted at 791-6413 or:

scraig@pressherald.com

Twitter: SteveCCraig

Major league roundup: Cubs top Rays for seventh straight win

Kyle Schwarber hit his 28th home run in the 2-1 win.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Mike Montgomery took a no-hit bid into the sixth inning, Kyle Schwarber hit his 28th home run and the Chicago Cubs extended their winning streak to a season-high seven by beating the Tampa Bay Rays 2-1 Tuesday night in Manager Joe Maddon’s return to Tropicana Field.

Maddon managed the Rays from 2006-14, then left to manage Chicago and last year led the Cubs to their first World Series title since 1908. Montgomery (7-8) allowed one hit in six innings, a one-out homer in the sixth by Brad Miller. Montgomery struck out six, walked one and hit his first batter, Kevin Kiermaier.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

BLUE JAYS 5, ROYALS 2: Marcus Stroman pitched seven innings to win for the first time in six starts, Darwin Barney hit a two-run homer and the Toronto won at home.

Barney went 2 for 3 with three RBI as the Blue Jays opened their final homestand on a winning note.

Stroman (12-8) allowed one run and four hits.

ASTROS 3, WHITE SOX 1: Jose Altuve homered, Alex Bregman hit an RBI double and AL West champion Houston extended its winning streak to five games.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Cardinals 8, REds 7: Dexter Fowler hit a tying homer in the eighth inning and a go-ahead double in the 10th, helping St. Louis win in Cincinnati.

Yadier Molina and Paul DeJong also connected for St. Louis.

NATIONALS 4, BRAVES 2: Max Scherzer allowed five hits in seven innings, and Washington tuned up for the playoffs with a home victory.

Scherzer (15-6) bounced back from his worst start of the season, also against the Braves last week, when he walked six and was roughed up for seven runs in an 8-2 loss.

This time, Scherzer struck out seven and walked only one while throwing 83 of 112 pitches for strikes.

BREWERS 1, PIRATES 0: Chase Anderson had eight strikeouts in six innings, Domingo Santana homered and Milwaukee won at Pittsburgh.

The Brewers won for the ninth time in 11 games, keeping pace in the NL Central and wild-card races. They won for the fourth time in the past seven days against reeling Pittsburgh.

MARLINS 5, METS 4: J.T. Realmuto homered in the 10th inning and Miami beat visiting New York after rallying for three runs in the ninth against former teammate A.J. Ramos.

With one out, Realmuto hit a 1-1 pitch from Paul Sewald (0-6) into the Mets’ bullpen for his 17th homer.

Miami trailed 4-1 in the ninth before coming back against Ramos, who faced the Marlins for the first time since they traded him to New York on July 28.

Justin Bour led off with his 22nd homer. Ramos then gave up four singles, including two-out RBI hits by A.J. Ellis and Ichiro Suzuki.

PHILLIES 6, DODGERS 2: Rhys Hoskins had four RBI, including a tie-breaking, three-run double off Pedro Baez in seventh inning that led Phillies over visiting Los Angeles.

Is the World Ready For Flying Cars?

An anonymous reader shares a report from TechCrunch, adding: “Is the world ready for flying cars? Sebastian Thrun, the supposed godfather of autonomous driving, and several other tech investors seem to think so.” From the report: At TechCrunch Disrupt …

An anonymous reader shares a report from TechCrunch, adding: “Is the world ready for flying cars? Sebastian Thrun, the supposed godfather of autonomous driving, and several other tech investors seem to think so.” From the report: At TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2017, Thrun talked a lot about flying cars and how that was the future of transportation. So did GGV’s Jenny Lee, a prolific investor in China. And so did Steve Jurvetson, one of the original investors in SpaceX. The technical backbone for flying cars seems to be there already — with drones becoming ever-present and advancements in AI and self-driving cars — but the time is coming soon that flying cars will be the primary mode of transportation. “I can’t envision a future of highways [and being] stuck in cars,” Thrun said. “I envision a [future] where you hop in a thing, go in the air, and fly in a straight line. I envision a future where Amazon delivers my food in the air in five minutes. The air is so free of stuff and is so unused compared to the ground, it has to happen in my opinion.” Cars today are forced to move on a two-dimensional plane (ramps, clover intersections and tunnels set aside), and while self-driving cars would make it easier for cars to talk to each other and move more efficiently, adding a third dimension to travel would make a lot of sense coming next. Thrun pointed to airplane transit, which is already a “fundamentally great mass transit system.” Jurvetson said he was actually about to ride in a flying car before he “watched it flip over” before arriving to talk about some of the next steps in technology onstage. So, there’s work to be done there, but it does certainly seem that all eyes are on flying cars. And that’ll be enabled by autonomous driving, which will probably allow flying cars to figure out the most efficient paths from one point to the next without crashing into each other. Lee said that China is closely analyzing changes in transportation, which might end up leading to flying cars. “I do want to highlight that there’s going to be huge disruption within the transportation ecosystem in China,” Lee said. “Cars going from diesel to electric. China has about 200 million install base of car ownership. In 2016, only 1 million cars are electric. The Chinese government hopes to install 5 million parking lots that are electric… Even the Chinese OEMs are buying into flying taxis.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Senate Republican’s last gasp would gut Obamacare

The Graham-Cassidy bill converts ACA funding into block grants for states and cuts Medicaid dramatically.

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans and the White House pressed ahead Tuesday with their suddenly resurgent effort to undo former President Barack Obama’s signature health-care law, even as their attempt was dealt a setback when a bipartisan group of governors and several influential interest groups came out against the proposal.

Powerful health-care groups continued to rail against the bill, including AARP and the American Hospital Association, both of which urged a no vote. But it was unclear whether the opposition would ultimately derail the attempt, as key Republican senators including Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said they had yet to make up their minds.

The measure marks the last gasp of Republican attempts to dramatically gut Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which has added millions of people to the ranks of the insured through a combination of federally subsidized marketplaces and state-level expansions of Medicaid, leading to record lows in the number of those without health insurance. The Graham-Cassidy bill – named for Sens. Lindsey Graham, S.C., and Bill Cassidy, La. – would convert funding for the ACA into block grants for the states and would cut Medicaid dramatically over time.

TWO MONTHS AFTER FAILED REPEAL

The bill – coming two months after a previous failed repeal effort in the Senate – is the subject of a last-ditch lobbying push by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and the Trump administration, led by Vice President Mike Pence, ahead of a Sept. 30 deadline for Senate action.

In a letter to Senate leaders, the group of 10 governors argued against the Graham-Cassidy bill and wrote that they prefer the bipartisan push to stabilize the insurance marketplaces that Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., had been negotiating before talks stalled Tuesday evening.

The governors who signed the bill are particularly notable, since some are from states represented by Republican senators who are weighing whether to back the bill. Among the signers were Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, I, who holds some sway over Murkowski, a potentially decisive vote who opposed a previous Republican effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Nevertheless, Murkowski said Tuesday afternoon that she was still weighing her options and explained how her position on the bill might ultimately differ from her opposition to the repeal effort that failed dramatically in July.

“If it can be shown that Alaska is not going to be disadvantaged, you gain additional flexibility. Then I can go back to Alaskans, and I can say, ‘OK, let’s walk through this together.’ That’s where it could be different,” she said.

But Murkowski, who has been in close contact with Walker, said she did not yet have the data to make such a determination. Alaska’s other Republican senator, Dan Sullivan, said he was still mulling whether to support the bill.

On the other side, a group of 15 Republican governors announced their support for the Senate bill Tuesday evening. The list includes Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, R, whose backing could help influence Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who has frequently criticized the legislation for failing to fully repeal the ACA.

On Tuesday, Pence traveled from New York, where he was attending the annual United Nations General Assembly, to Washington with Graham in a sign of the White House’s support for the proposal.

“My message today is I want to make sure that members of the Senate know the president and our entire administration supports Graham-Cassidy,” Pence told reporters on the flight. “We think the American people need this.”

Graham added that President Trump called him at 10:30 p.m. Monday.

“He says, ‘If we can pull this off, it’ll be a real accomplishment for the country,’ ” he said.

Trump has played a limited role in building support among senators in recent days, but it is possible that his participation will increase as a potential vote nears. He has, however, been in touch with some governors, including a weekend call with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, R, according to aides.

‘OPPORTUNITY EXPIRES’ SEPT. 30

Pence attended the weekly Senate Republican policy luncheon, where he said the current health-care system is collapsing and the bill fulfills key Republican promises to return control to states and rein in federal entitlement programs, according to several Republican senators.

Afterward, McConnell declined to ensure a vote on the bill but said his team is working to secure sufficient support.

“We’re in the process of discussing all of this. Everybody knows that the opportunity expires at the end of the month,” said McConnell, referring to the limited window Republicans have to take advantage of a procedural tactic to pass a broad health-care bill without any Democratic support.

Democrats say the ACA needs modest improvements by Congress but is working well overall, and they have railed against a process in which Republicans are pressing ahead with few hearings on legislation that would affect an industry that accounts for about a sixth of the U.S. economy.

The current bill would give states control over billions in federal health-care spending and enact deep cuts to Medicaid. The Medicaid cuts in particular are a major source of concern to the governors, both in terms of imposing a per capita limit on what states would receive and putting restrictions on how they could spend any federal aid on their expanded Medicaid populations.

Medicaid was expanded under the ACA to provide states with generous funding if they opted to cover adults earning up to 138 percent of the poverty level. Many Republican-led states decided against an expansion following a Supreme Court decision allowing them to opt out.

The fact that the bill also would bar states from taxing health-care providers to fund their Medicaid programs posed a problem for several governors.

Louisiana’s health secretary sent a letter to Cassidy on Monday saying their state could see disproportionate cuts with significant impacts on people with pre-existing or complex and costly conditions.

“This would be a detrimental step backwards for Louisiana,” wrote Rebekah Gee, who posted her letter on Twitter on Monday.

Man killed in Auburn crash

The accident happened late Tuesday night when his vehicle ran into the back of a tractor-trailer on Washington Street, Maine State Police say.

A man was killed late Tuesday night when his vehicle ran into the back of a tractor-trailer in Auburn, Maine State Police said.

The crash took place on Washington Street just off the Auburn exit of the Maine Turnpike, said Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.

State troopers and Auburn police are investigating the crash, which was reported shortly after 10:30 p.m.

Local golf scores

Results Golf HOLE-IN-ONE Tony Cerbone Tony Cerbone of Bangor aced the 208-yard, par 3 7th hole at North Conway Country Club on Saturday. He used a driver for the shot, which was witnessed by Jack Glancy, Bob Segal, Brian Ashe, Gil Coffin, Steve Malloy, Rick O’Brien and Mike Beatrice. EMSGA At Northeast Harbor GC Class […]

Results Golf HOLE-IN-ONE Tony Cerbone Tony Cerbone of Bangor aced the 208-yard, par 3 7th hole at North Conway Country Club on Saturday. He used a driver for the shot, which was witnessed by Jack Glancy, Bob Segal, Brian Ashe, Gil Coffin, Steve Malloy, Rick O’Brien and Mike Beatrice. EMSGA At Northeast Harbor GC Class […]

Study links gun laws and murder rates in domestic violence cases

A paper in the Annals of Internal Medicine finds that offenders forced to give up their guns are less likely to kill.

When domestic violence offenders are required to relinquish their guns, instead of simply being barred from owning firearms, the risk that those offenders may kill their partners goes down, a new study finds.

The paper, described in the Annals of Internal Medicine, highlights a simple method for lowering the risk women face of being killed by an intimate partner: Enforce the laws already in place.

Each year, the study authors point out, more than 1,800 people are killed by their intimate partners – current or former spouses or people they dated, for example. About half of those killings are carried out with a gun.

Roughly 85 percent of those victims are women. In fact, nearly half of the women killed in the U.S. each year are killed not by a stranger, but by an intimate partner.

Firearms play a significant role in these domestic violence homicides – a pattern that the law has tried to address for decades. The 1994 Violence Against Women Act banned gun ownership for people with permanent restraining orders because of intimate-partner violence, or IPV. And a 1968 law banning gun ownership for those with an IPV-related felony was extended to include misdemeanors in 1996.

In theory, these laws should be enough; in practice, they’re hard to enforce on the federal level. So state laws have sprung up to fill the gap.

The problem is, the state laws were modeled after the federal law, which has a gaping loophole: While offenders are not allowed to own a gun, they aren’t explicitly compelled by the law to give up any guns they already have.

In states that simply banned gun possession, the gun-related intimate-partner homicide rate did not drop by a statistically significant amount. But in the states that required offenders to surrender their guns – including California, Massachusetts and New York – that rate dropped by a full 14 percent.

Red Sox beat Orioles in extra innings again

BALTIMORE — Jackie Bradley Jr. scored the game’s lone run on a wild pitch by Brad Brach in the 11th inning, and the Boston Red Sox used six pitchers to silence the Baltimore Orioles’ bats in a 1-0 victory Tuesday night. Boston has won 10 of 13 to move a season-high 23 games over .500 […]

BALTIMORE — Jackie Bradley Jr. scored the game’s lone run on a wild pitch by Brad Brach in the 11th inning, and the Boston Red Sox used six pitchers to silence the Baltimore Orioles’ bats in a 1-0 victory Tuesday night. Boston has won 10 of 13 to move a season-high 23 games over .500 […]

NHL roundup: Penalty-shot goal helps Bruins win exhibition game

Austin Czarnik scores late in the second period as Boston beats Detroit, 4-2.

BOSTON — Austin Czarnik’s penalty-shot goal late in the second period lifted the Boston Bruins to a 4-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings Tuesday night in an exhibition game.

Ryan Fitzgerald, Danton Heinen and Teddy Purcell also scored for Boston, which received a 20-save performance from Anton Khudobin.

Petr Mrazek made 19 saves for Detroit on 21 shots, and reserve Jared Coreau made 11 saves.

Anthony Mantha and Dylan Larkin scored for the Red Wings.

The Bruins are 2-0. In Monday’s exhibition opener, Tim Schaller’s short-handed goal in the second period lifted Boston to a 3-2 comeback victory over Montreal in Quebec City, Quebec.

SABRES 4, PENGUINS 3: In University Park, Pennsylvania, Jack Eichel’s goal 25 seconds into overtime lifted Buffalo.

NOTES

DEVILS: Brian Boyle hopes to play hockey again soon despite being diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia, a type of bone-marrow cancer that the team doctor said can largely be treated with medication.

The 32-year-old forward was diagnosed with CML after bloodwork at the start of training camp showed irregularities from last season. Boyle said based on what team doctor Michael Farber and others have told him, he expects to live his life under normal conditions.

That includes getting on the ice with his new team after signing a $5.5 million, two-year contract in the offseason. Boyle said on a conference call that he feels as close to normal as possible, and Farber expects treatment to begin as soon as some further tests come back.

“We have a good plan of attack here, and I’m looking forward to getting on the ice and playing,” Boyle said. “When that happens, I don’t know, but my mindset is Oct. 7.”

The Devils open the regular season at home Oct. 7 against the Colorado Avalanche. That might be an aggressive target date, but Boyle said he expects only minor side effects even while he is being treated.

The Devils are optimistic Boyle will handle the medications well, no matter the course of action.

“He will be monitored very closely,” Farber said. “He came to us in great shape with relatively few symptoms, so I think he’ll respond quite well to therapy.”

CML is the same disease that former NHL forward Jason Blake played through after being diagnosed in 2007.

Boyle, who played last season with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs and whose wife, Lauren, had a baby girl in May, said he felt mostly fatigued but chalked it up to life events. Moving forward, he lamented his wife not letting him eat Skittles anymore but is glad that there shouldn’t be any short- or long-term problems.

“In a serious way, I’ve been told the treatment, it’s supposed to work,” Boyle said. “Relative to the big ugly ‘L’ word leukemia, it’s good news.”

PREDATORS: Nashville named defenseman Roman Josi as the eighth captain in the franchise’s history, replacing Mike Fisher, who retired last month.

Defenseman Ryan Ellis, currently recovering from offseason season, is the associate captain. Defenseman Mattias Ekholm, forward Filip Forsberg and center Ryan Johansen all are alternate captains.

BLUES: Forward Zach Sanford will undergo surgery and miss 5-to-6 months after dislocating his left shoulder during training camp.

Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester has a left ankle fracture and will be re-evaluated in three weeks.

Red Sox use wild pitch to beat Orioles 1-0 in 11 innings

With Jackie Bradley Jr. scoring the game’s lone run, Boston posts its 15th extra-inning victory this season.

BALTIMORE — Jackie Bradley Jr. scored the game’s lone run on a wild pitch by Brad Brach in the 11th inning, and the Boston Red Sox used six pitchers to silence the Baltimore Orioles’ bats in a 1-0 victory Tuesday night.

Boston has won 10 of 13 to move a season-high 23 games over .500 (87-64) and draw closer to clinching a postseason berth. The Red Sox started the day with a three-game lead over the second-place New York Yankees in the AL East.

It was the second straight tight, lengthy game between these AL East rivals. Boston won in 11 innings on Monday night and is 15-3 in extra-inning games.

With a runner on second and two outs in the 11th, Brach (4-5) walked Andrew Benintendi and Mookie Betts to load the bases for Mitch Moreland, who sidestepped a bouncing pitch from Brach that enabled Bradley to score without a throw.

Joe Kelly (4-1) worked the 10th and Matt Barnes got three outs for his first save. Five Red Sox relievers did not allow a hit over 42/3 innings.

The finish came after starting pitchers Drew Pomeranz and Kevin Gausman locked up in a scoreless duel that was essentially the exact opposite of Monday night’s 10-8 slugfest.

Pomeranz allowed five hits and two walks in 61/3 innings for Boston. Although he didn’t get his 17th win, the left-hander lowered his ERA to 3.15 and set a career high by pitching at least six innings for the 17th time (in 30 starts).

Gausman was even sharper, giving up just three hits over eight innings with one walk and seven strikeouts.

The right-hander retired the first 14 batters before Rafael Devers singled off the right-field wall. In the sixth, Xander Bogaerts singled and Benintendi walked before Betts grounded out.

Baltimore threatened in the third inning when Manny Machado hit a two-out double, but he was thrown out by Benintendi trying to score on Jonathan Schoop’s single to left field.

No one else got to third base until the sixth, when Baltimore had runners at the corners with two outs before Pomeranz struck out Mark Trumbo with a high, outside fastball.

The Orioles have lost 11 of 13 to fall out of contention.

NOTES: Dustin Pedroia, who left Monday’s game in the fourth inning after fouling a ball off his nose, did not start but was used as a pinch hitter in the 10th inning and grounded into a double play. Manager John Farrell said Pedroia will likely return to the starting lineup Wednesday. … DH Hanley Ramirez (left arm soreness) was out of the starting lineup for the sixth consecutive game.