Super Bowl champions Randy Cross (49ers), Leonard Marshall (NY Giants) team up with boxing champion “Irish” Micky Ward to promote new PSA discouraging tackle football under age 14

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Bold new PSA “Fighting CTE” from the Concussion Legacy Foundation compares dangerous head hits in boxing to head hits in youth tackle football.

(BOSTON) – Super Bowl champions Randy Cross and Leonard Marshall have joined boxing welterweight champion “Irish” Micky Ward to help the Concussion Legacy Foundation (CLF) launch a new PSA that claims enrolling your child in youth tackle football is no different than allowing your child to box. The PSA asks, “If you wouldn’t let your child box, why let them play tackle football?”

CLF created the PSA “Fighting CTE” to help parents understand the link between repetitive hits to the head and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). It relies on two key comparisons, one of which has never been released before. First, 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.

Second, while CTE is thought of as a boxer’s disease (it was first called punch drunk and dementia pugilistica), there are now more than five times as many cases of CTE in former football players than in boxers.

“It used to be socially acceptable to encourage children to box to learn ‘life lessons,’ but as parents learned about punch drunk, it fell out of favor,” said Robert Cantu, M.D., Concussion Legacy Foundation co-founder and medical director. “With such a strong link between youth tackle football and increased risk of CTE, we should look at it the same way we look at boxing, as an unacceptable and unnecessary activity for children.”

Super Bowl champions Leonard Marshall and Randy Cross are promoting the PSA as part of their support of CLF’s Flag Football Under 14 program which encourages parents to wait until high school to enroll their children in tackle football. 

“CTE is a nightmare and we need to do everything we can to stop anyone else from suffering,” said Leonard A. Marshall Jr., two-time Pro Bowl defensive end who won two Super Bowls with the New York Giants. Marshall has been diagnosed with probable CTE. CTE cannot 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 the former welterweight champion in the 2010 Oscar-nominated film The Fighter. Ward, who now struggles with memory, sleep and other cognitive symptoms, 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 Micky Ward, of Lowell, MA, who famously sparred as hard as he fought in prizefights. “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.

You can watch the full PSA “Fighting CTE” at this link. An embed link can also be made available upon request.

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