(KHOU) - - Football is an American classic, that's in crisis. The game teaches teamwork and character. But it's also far more likely than other sport to give a kid a concussion. That's got parents worried. David investigates...
Jacelynn Myers is nine. He asks his mom "can I play football?" every day. Pamela Jones is worried about the risk of concussion but she also has an open mind. She wants to know, should my kid play football?
So, let's start this trip out with a basic. The brain is jiggly, like a jello mold. A hit to the head-- or even the body-- can bang and stretch the brain. That trauma can actually cause changes in the brain leaving it susceptible to more stress and injury.
Pamela and I are feeling a hit at Desoto High School, in suburban Dallas. It's one of the top football programs in America. Todd Peterman is the head coach.
Pamela: At the age of 9 do you think I should let him play football?
Peterman: In my opinion, I think, you should let him play flag football.
David: Did a football coach just say, no tackle football? Yes, he did! The coach has his own young son.VERIFY: Should I allow my child to play football
Peterman: The question is, does my 10-year old play tackle football at the age of 10, that answer is no. There're not trainers around. There's nobody trained to handle concussions to know what it looks like.
David: It's the athletic trainer who identifies and treats a concussion. The National Association of Athletic Trainers says one should present be at all games, without exception. But in Texas, where football is king, schools are not required to have one.
Scott Galloway: it sure looks like we're spending a lot on helmets and computers and balls and we have 5 sets of uniforms. David: Where's the trainer? Galloway: Where is the one who is looking out for my kid?
Pamela: Should I let my son play football?
Galloway: Yes, but, would be my answer. I don't want my 9-year old out there hitting heads with one another while their brain health is developing. Would I be comfortable here with my son, under my care, absolutely?
David: More and more, doctors are focused on this: the brain, inflamed with injury, needs time to heal. Continued to trauma can lead to a brain disease called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE.
Cyndy Feasel: We put a warning label on cigarettes. Why wouldn't we put a warning label on a football helmet?
David: Cyndy Feasel's is telling us about her husband, Grant. He played 11-seasons in the NFL. In retirement, Cyndy says their life became almost unbearable. He was an alcoholic, impulsive and depressed.
Feasel: As the years went on his speech became stuttery, at one point. He would just say the same thing over and over again.
David: After Grant died at age 52, Cyndy finally learned what caused those changes to his personality. An autopsy proved he had CTE-- something that's even been found in the brains of a select number of high school players, too.
Feasel: I know it's a money making a deal. I know I live in Texas. I know a lot of coaches don't want to hear what I have to say. Maybe some people don't think it's real. Some people haven't even heard of CTE. I would have to say, if you think I'm making this up you still have your son, you still have a husband.
Pamela, Ok. I'm sorry.
Feasel: No, I'm sorry.
Pamela: Do you think I should let my son play football?
Feasel: Please don't, please don't.
David: How were you feeling about that?
Pamela: It really made my heart go out to her. Made me realize, I wouldn't want that for my son.
David: Our final stop is a visit with Dr. Hunt Batjer. He's the chair of brain surgery at the University of Texas-Southwestern. And one of the NFL's top experts on concussion.
David: So, obviously, Pamela is not in the car.
Chance: Yeah, she couldn't make it. She had a family thing. But we got to go get this interview.
David: This is the pre-eminent concussion doctor, one of them, in the country. This is the time we had with him. I'll take her questions the doctor and then I'm going to show her the interview so she can process it.
David: New research from Dr. Batjer's department shows, even at the high school level, repeated impacts to the heads of football players causes measurable changes in their brains.
David, the question that Pamela has is, do helmets prevent concussions?
Batjer: No. They protect against the more violent injuries but may magnify the mild ones.
Batjer: Any marketing that says we reduce concussion by x-percent is nonsense.
David: Pamela would ask you if she was here, should my kid play football?
Batjer: 12 to 14 is a better age. And I would say, there are lots of things you need to know.
David: Here's what they are: Kids need strong necks and physical conditioning. Schools must have athletic trainers and concussion management programs. Helmets should be less than three years old. And players must be taught the right way to tackle.
Batjer: Then I think you've got a scenario that's going to be very safe for that child. If any of those things are not right, it's going to be a crap shoot.
Pamela: It was very informative, very informative.
David: That's it, for Pamela's journey.
David: Our question was, should my kid play tackle football? What's the answer?
Pamela: My answer is no, not tackle football at 9 years old. I verified that.
David: She's not against football, altogether. On the one hand, Cyndy made a big impact on her but so did the doctor's advice. So, Pamela has decided she would let him play if he's older, stronger and the program is safe.
David: What age? Pamela: I would say, about 14 maybe.
David: So, Jacelynn may play tackle yet. But don't take my word for it… take hers.