Concussions, Youth Football and Migraines

Patient Expert

Migraine is a neurological genetic disease thought to be caused by overactive neurons in our brains and genetics.   Motherhood, by definition, is when a female has a child or acts as the mother of child she has not given birth to. Of course, we know there is much, much more than a definition involved to being a mother. Mothers are quite a wonder, speaking of my own mother and former mother in-law. Unfortunately, mothers may unwittingly pass down unwanted genes such as those for Migraine. Here's the breakdown; if one parent has Migraine, there is a 50% their children will too, the risk goes up to 75% if both parents have Migraines. What's a mother to do when she knows her child already has Migraines and then may be put in harm's way due to a sport he loves?

My son, a sophomore in high school, grew up without playing youth football. This made me very happy. I feel strongly that football is a dangerous sport and can leave some players with long lasting injuries. Can I tell you how relieved I was year after year, when he showed absolutely no interest in playing football? He played youth baseball and focused on getting his black belt in Tae Kwon Do, which he did. My bliss lasted until the end of eighth grade when the modified football coach took a look at him, and told him "you've got a great pair of shoulders for football." My dream was over.

When the start of his freshman year rolled around, he asked me if he could try out for the football team. My immediate answer was, "No." "But it's only freshman football, mom. They just learn drills and stuff." I asked him if they played games against other teams, "Well, I guess so," he replied. Again, my answer remained steadfast - "No." Then he nailed me. "Remember when you said you would support me in anything I wanted to do, mom? This is what I want to do." I will never forget those words. So, yes, he is playing football. If nothing else, I am true to my word.

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a progressive, degenerative disease affecting the brain where the abnormal protein tau builds up. Researchers have discovered that repeated blows to the head - mild traumatic brain injury or concussion - may be one reason CTE occurs. Concussions have been in the news lately because a  startling number of professional athletes seem to have taken their lives and/or the lives of their loved ones - for no apparent reason. This condition can only be confirmed at autopsy. NHL and NFL players, pro wrestlers, boxers, soccer players and young athlete's brains that have been repeatedly traumatized by multiple concussions seem to be at risk for developing CTE. People with CTE may not begin to show signs of this disease until years later. Some but not all of the symptoms associated with CTE may include memory loss, headache, confusion, impaired judgment, depression and even dementia.

This fall will be my son's third year of football, which he absolutely loves. He received an Offensive Lineman of the Year Award last year, and he has been known to play both offense and defense when needed. Luck has been with him so far as concussions _go _ - none yet. But here's the thing: do I continue to "allow" him to play a sport that may put him at a substantial health risk later in life? The fact that he hasn't had a documented concussion doesn't mean he hasn't been hit hard enough to have his head jarred. His coaches are great, but they can't possibly see every player during every play. The school district is very supportive and mandates the concussion impact test before each season, and then again if a player is concussed, along with getting medical approval before they return to play.

Am I putting my son's health in danger from a possible condition in the future? If I had to choose to be able to not pass down my "_Migraine gene _" I certainly wouldn't have. I could choose not to let him play football because he "may" be at risk for CTE. Migraines, Motherhood and Football, when do you draw the line?


Fact Sheet. "What is CTE."  Sports Legacy Institute.

Thanks, and feel well,


Follow me on or

visit my blog, _Migraine and Other Headache Disorders _

© The HealthCentral Network, 2011. Last updated March 19, 2011.