CTE a Concern Even for High School Athletes

News has swirled around the NFL about players developing CTE. Yet research suggests such brain injuries are possible even for Cobblers who never played beyond high school.

By Connor Trimble

High school football athletes and coaches have begun to feel the shockwaves from the news of brain injuries to former NFL players. CTE, or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, has become a much studied condition, and with the research high schools across the country are recognizing they need to reduce athletes’ chances of developing it.  

While CTE has become a common issue in the NFL, many wonder whether it really affects high school players. The answer to this is yes. CTE is more than just a concussion or a hard hit to the head, it’s a progressive degenerative disease that has similar effects on the brain as dementia, and there is no way to stop it once it’s started.

Researchers are finding it’s harming high school athletes across the country. “Unfortunately, we found CTE [in people] who only played high school football,” says Dr. Daneshavar, Boston University’s leading CTE researcher. “And they passed away at a very young age.” What makes this disease more alarming is that it can only be diagnosed after death. While Central High School has seen no cases yet, it makes everyone wonder if any current or former Rapid City football players could be dealing with the early stages of such a disease.

In recent years the National Football League (NFL) has taken precautions to protect its players, including new tackling methods and better helmets. Many of these methods are used at Central High School. “We’ve been teaching shoulder tackling,” says Erik Iverson, Central’s football coach. “The NFL has a thing called ‘heads-up.’ It’s all trickled down.” While Central’s football coaches aren’t losing sleep over possible injuries, they certainly are conscious of them. “It’s in the back of your mind,” Iverson says. “You always know that injuries can happen.” 

With CTE becoming a larger issue high school football players have more to consider before strapping up – not only for college careers but in high school games as well.