A 2022 Choice Reviews Outstanding Academic Title
Dispels the myths surrounding head impacts in youth sports and empowers parents to make informed decisions about sports participation.
“They’re just little kids, they don’t hit that hard or that much.” “Girls soccer is the most dangerous sport.” “Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy only happens to former NFL players.” “Youth sports are safer than ever.” These are all myths propagated with the goal of maintaining the status quo in youth sports, which can subject young, rapidly maturing brains to hundreds of impacts each season. In this book, Julie Stamm dissects the issue of repetitive brain trauma in youth sports and their health consequences, explaining the science behind concussions, CTE, and subconcussive impacts written in an easy-to-understand approach, so you can be a well-informed consumer and decision maker. It’s not all about concussions. Those repetitive impacts that happen on every play in football or with every header in soccer can damage the brain, too. The consequences can be even worse for a child’s developing brain. Stamm counters the myths, bad arguments, and propaganda surrounding the youth sports industry. This book also provides guidance for those deciding whether or not their child should play sports with a high risk of repetitive brain trauma as well as for those hoping to make youth sports truly as safe as possible for young athletes.
Stamm, a former three-sport athlete herself, understands the many wonderful benefits that come from playing youth sports and believes all children should have the opportunity to play sports without the risk of long-term consequences. No athlete has to sustain hundreds of impacts and repetitive brain trauma in order to gain the benefits of sports. This work is a must-read before you suit up your child for another practice or send your team out for another game.
Julie Stamm, PhD, is a clinical assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She brings a unique perspective on the issues of repetitive head impacts in youth sports as a scientist and expert in the field, an anatomist with knowledge of childhood development throughout the body and the brain, and an athletic trainer who has provided medical care for athletes in a variety of sports. As an avid sports fan and a three-sport high school athlete from a small town in Wisconsin, she values the importance of sports participation for children. She resides in Fitchburg, WI.
Introduction: Why I Wrote this Book
Part I: Youth Sports: The Wins and the Losses
Chapter 1: Why We Should Care About Repeated Brain Trauma in Youth Sports
Chapter 2: How Youth Sports Can Provide a Lifetime of Benefits
Chapter 3: Why Sports Culture Needs a Transformation
Part II: The Science: What We Know About Repetitive Brain Trauma in Sports
Chapter 4: Why Kids Really Do Hit That Hard (At Least That’s What Their Brain Feels)
Chapter 5: Why the Young Brain is Vulnerable
Chapter 6: Why It’s Not All About Concussions
Chapter 7: Why Head Impacts in Youth Sports May Be Disrupting Brain Development
Chapter 8: Why CTE is More Than an NFL Problem, and What it Means for Youth Sports
Part III: Bad Arguments for Maintaining the Status Quo in Youth Sports
Chapter 9: Why the Argument that Other Sports are Dangerous, too, is a Bad One
Chapter 10: Why Helmets and Other Technology Won’t Solve the Problem
Chapter 11: Why Safer Than Ever May Not Be Safe Enough
Chapter 12: Why You Don’t Have to Hit at a Young Age to Be a Superstar
Chapter 13: Why the Benefits of Sports Can Be Gained Without Repetitive Brain Trauma
Part IV: The Future of Youth Sports
Chapter 14: How We Can Change Contact Sports to Protect Children’s Brains
Chapter 15: What Families and Athletes Can Do to Stay Safe in Youth Sports
Chapter 16: What You Can Do to Improve the Safety of Youth Sports in Your Community
Conclusion: How much do we have to know and how bad do the risks have to be?
About the Author
Nearly 900,000 children ages 6 to 12 play tackle football. Is it so horrible for them to whack their noggins? Yes. “Common sense tells us that hitting our heads is bad for the brain,” says Stamm, a former high school athlete with a PhD in anatomy and neurobiology who studies chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or brain degeneration. She nixes the notion that helmets can be “concussion proof.” Even with a covering, a head can move rapidly after a blow. More than a third of athletes don’t report symptoms, sometimes because they’re afraid they’ll be labeled “soft,” lose their scholarships, or end their career. How about getting kids to stick to flag football? Tom Brady played it until ninth grade, while Walter Peyton and Jerry Rice didn’t play full contact until tenth grade. Stamm celebrates sports, which help prevent obesity while teaching discipline, dedication, perseverance, and teamwork. But she worries about blows during games of football, soccer, rugby, and ice hockey that can cause blurred vision, headache, dizziness, fatigue, anxiety, and nausea. There are lifesaving lessons here for young athletes, parents, and policymakers.
This well-researched, thoroughly sourced work focuses on the dangers of repetitive brain trauma, particularly in youth contact sports. The chapter organization and accessible format shows a particular strength…. Another strength of this book is in the author's clear explanations of the science that informs current understanding of brain injuries, how those injuries happen, and why youthful brains are vulnerable during development. The author deftly dismantles common arguments and myths used by some in defending the current version of youth sports. A primary takeaway is that although people might not know everything, they do know enough to take the threat of brain injury seriously at the youth level and need to make changes now. This book offers practical solutions for doing just that and is important for anyone concerned about safety in youth sports. Essential. All readers.
Clinical assistant professor Julie Stamm, Ph.D applies her expertise in anatomy, childhood development, and athletics in The Brain on Youth Sports: The Science, the Myths, and the Future, a balanced scrutiny of the risks to the brain involved in youth sports. Stamm explains the science and medical knowledge behind concussions, CTE, and subconcussive impacts in terms accessible to parents, educators, and readers of all backgrounds. Stamm is emphatically not against youth sports; she is an ardent advocate of the physical and social benefits of athletic competition, but stresses that those benefits do not have to come at the cost of potential brain trauma. The Brain on Youth Sports offers practical suggestions for making youth sports safer for everyone, and is highly recommended especially for parents, educators, and youth coaches.
Stamm's book is a must read for all parents contemplating allowing their young child to play a collision sport as it will allow for an informed, highly-educated decision.
Clearheaded and productive conversation on brain injury from football is rare. Dr. Stamm has been an athlete, an athletic trainer, and a researcher. Her comprehensive experience provides an invaluable perspective. The Brain on Youth Sports is a gift to anyone aiming to gain an objective understanding of brain injury from football and other contact sports.
We say we would do anything to protect our children, yet each year millions of parents enroll their children in dangerous sports that may damage their developing brain. Dr. Julie Stamm has written the most up to date guide to the complex science of concussions and repetitive brain trauma in sports. Whether you are a parent choosing the appropriate sport for your child or a coach wrestling with how to keep your athletes safe, the reader will walk away educated and inspired to do the right thing – and not hit children in the head.
12/31/20: Madison Magazine included book in roundup, “2021 Reading List: Local books to add to your collection.”
6/25/21, Wausau Daily Herald: Julie Stamm discusses the book and her background studying the science of sports-related brain trauma.
7/19/21, Number’s Don’t Lie “Highlighting the Best of Youth Sports” show: Episode 47 features the author and book.
8/3/21: Author Julie Stamm sat down with the hosts of The Lisa Show to talk about how to keep kids safe while they play any sport.
BYUradio's The Lisa Show- Author Julie Stamm shares insights from her book.
8/5/21, The Youth Sport Podcast with Rianna Poskin: Julie Stamm discussed the book and her research on repeated head impacts.
8/19/21, Wisconsin Public Radio: Julie Stamm was interviewed in response to a PSA featuring former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre urging the delay of tackle football for kids.
8/28/21, USA Today : Julie Stamm wrote an opinion piece about why youth players should not suit up for tackle football.
12/22/22, Choice Reviews: This book was highlighted as a top community college title.
1/9/23, Choice: This book was named a Review of the Week.
4/20/23, Choice: This was featured in the Outstanding Academic Titles 2022 sports roundup.
10/10/23, Chasing Life podcast: CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta speaks to Julie Stamm about the risks of concussions for kids.