How is boxing like football? "Fighting CTE" PSA Explains

Is enrolling your child in youth tackle football any different than allowing your child to box? Our new PSA "Fighting CTE" teaches parents that a child’s brain can’t tell the difference between a hit to the head from a boxing glove, or a football helmet. Repetitive hits to the head can damage the brain, no matter the source.

Almost all parents agree boxing isn't appropriate for children. Now that science has shown a link between youth tackle football and increased risk of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the question for parents is clear - if you wouldn't let your child box, why let them play tackle football? 

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Super Bowl champions Leonard Marshall and Randy Cross have teamed up with former welterweight boxing champion "Irish" Micky Ward to promote the PSA as part of CLF’s Flag Football Under 14 program, which discourages tackle football under age 14.

Pictured L-R: Leonard Marshall, Micky Ward, Randy Cross

CTE is a nightmare and we need to do everything we can to stop anyone else from suffering,” said Leonard Marshall, two-time Pro Bowl defensive end who won two Super Bowls with the New York Giants. Marshall has been diagnosed with probable CTE, which can't be diagnosed with certainty until after death..

It’s unnecessary for a child’s brain to take hit after hit when they can learn all of the fundamentals of the game playing flag,” said Randy Cross, three-time Super Bowl champion offensive lineman for the San Francisco 49ers.

Cross did not start playing tackle football until ninth grade. Neither did the five greatest NFL players of all-time – Jerry Rice, Jim Brown, Lawrence Taylor, Walter Payton and Tom Brady – or many other NFL greats listed on CLF’s All-Time Greatest Team.

“Irish” Micky Ward became so famous for his ability to absorb punishment in the boxing ring, Mark Wahlberg was drawn to portray him in the 2010 Oscar-nominated film The Fighter. Ward famously sparred as hard as he fought in prizefights. Now, he struggles with memory, sleep and other cognitive symptoms, and is an advocate for reducing repeated head impacts in all sports.  

“If I knew then what I know now, I never would have subjected myself to so many head impacts,” said Ward. “The message of this PSA is essential for all parents to hear: repeated head impacts are not good for children.”

A 2019 study published in the Annals of Neurology, led by Boston University researchers, shows the odds of developing CTE increase 30 percent for every year of tackle football played, meaning a high school player who starts tackle football at age 5, instead of age 14, has an incredible 10 times the risk of developing CTE. To learn more about the study, visit

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