What is the association between suicide risk and a history of playing high school football? The CJSM Podcast.

The concern over the potential long-term negative consequences of playing youth contact sports has grown over the last two decades.  The Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine — this blog and the CJSM podcasts as well — have been a vital forum for publishing the evidence regarding the relative safety of these sports exposures.

The impact of ACL ruptures and other musculoskeletal injuries — with long-term risks of osteoarthritis — give me pause as a pediatric sports medicine physician, but it is the long-term risk of concussions that generate the most concern among my colleagues, parents, and the public at large.  Will my child get CTE like Junior Seau?

In the United States especially, this concern over long-term risk gets wrapped up with medicolegal concerns, resulting in clickable stories such as this: “WIll Injured Kids Sue the Catholic Church Over Youth Football?” It is easy and understandable that fear may soon outrun the current evidence.

The science underpinning such concerns has grown in parallel with the awareness of the safety issues themselves, and in today’s podcast (and in the November 2021 CJSM) we examine a new study investigating the potential association of exposure to football as a high schooler and long-term suicidality risk.

Senior author Dr. Douglas Terry of Vanderbilt University joins us today to report on his team’s findings in their new publication: Playing High School Football is Not Associated with Increased Risk For Suicidality in Early Adulthood.

The principal finding of the study is right there, in the title; as Dr. Terry and I joked on the podcast, the authors definitely did not bury the lede on this manuscript.  They found no association with playing high school football earlier in life and an increased risk of suicidality in early adulthood.  A valuable contribution to the growing literature, indeed.

Mental health in athletes, including concern for suicide, and the long term effects of concussions are among the most pressing issues in sports medicine.  We think you will find a listen to this podcast and a read of the study itself to be invaluable resources to you as engage with these same issues.

About sportingjim
I work at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio USA, where I am a specialist in pediatric sports medicine. My academic appointment as an Associate Professor of Pediatrics is through Ohio State University. I am a public health advocate for kids' health and safety. I am also the Deputy Editor for the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine.

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