Football could contribute to strokes in adolescents

American childhood football as a possible risk factor for cerebral infarction

Journal of Child Neurology

Young football players may be at higher risk for stroke, according to this study that looks at potential causes to stroke after football injury. The authors looked at various case studies of football players in their teens that suffered a stroke and found some potential causes for strokes in young football athletes. Some of those potential risks include:

  • an increase of hyperventilation
  • repeated neurological injury
  • use of anabolic steroids
  • use of highly caffeinated energy drinks
  • an increase in obesity of young players

The authors point out the increase in obesity presents a two-fold risk as it not only increases the force of impacts among the players, but also the likelihood for other stroke risk factors such as hypertension. They observe that organized childhood tackle football in the United States can begin at age 5 years, leading to potentially decades of repeated brain injuries. In addition, the body mass index of the United States pediatric football-playing population continues to increase, so the forces experienced by tackled pediatric players continues to increase. Looking at the previous research, the authors conclude that even more investigation is needed to better draw conclusions and best practices for dealing with head trauma and football in children.


Three adolescent football players who had ischemic stroke associated with football practice and play are described. The literature on stroke associated with childhood sports and football in particular is reviewed, and the multiple mechanisms by which football can contribute to ischemic stroke are discussed.

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Article details
Brosch, J., & Golomb, M. (2011). American Childhood Football as a Possible Risk Factor for Cerebral Infarction Journal of Child Neurology, 26 (12), 1493-1498 DOI: 10.1177/0883073811418114

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