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Study: Playing Football At A Young Age Could Double Mental Health Issues

BALTIMORE (WJZ)-- Could football at a young age have an impact on your mood and behavior later in life?

A new study focused on kids on the field claims it could double chances of mental health issues.

The study focuses on kids who play football younger than 12 years old. Researchers say the hard hits take a toll.

"It's hard to watch them out there, and you hear that crack," said one football parent. "This league does a very good job of teaching them how to hit each other so that they don't get a concussion so they're not in danger."

Inside the huddle at Towson Little League Football, coaches say players safety lies in the technique.

Coaches recognize that at this critical age of brain development, a good helmet goes a long way.

"I think it's the number one priority. It's what we preach and it's what we abide by here," said Towson Little League Football commissioner John Putnam.

A new study by Boston University of 214 former football players showed possible consequences of the game.

The study found that kids who play football before 12 years old are twice as likely to have problems with mood and behavior later in life, and three times as likely to suffer depression as adults.

Even kids who don't get concussions.

"There's a lot of unknowns still with regard to the risks of repetitive head trauma. and the study is a good conversation point," said Dr. Louis Kovacs of MedStar Health. "But for now its still not clear what the risks are."

For now, coach Putnam hopes his players and coaches will remember the long game.

"We need to tell the parents and the coaches, they're here to live another day. They're not signing division one scholarships tomorrow, but we hope that they're going to be good young men and young women," Putnam said.

Dr. Kovacs also pointed out there are many other contact sports, not just football  that pose concussion risks. The long term risks for any concussions just aren't clear.

According to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, participation in tackle football among young kids has dropped nearly 20 percent since 2009.

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