Getting involved in sports is a great way for kids to get out of the house, stay active and forge friendships while doing something they love.
In the United States, about 36 million children under the age of 18 play organized sports every year, and while this is encouraged by experts, there are some high-impact activities that some doctors are discouraging.
Dr. Bennet Omalu, a forensic pathologist sat down for an interview with TODAY to discuss the dangers in playing certain sports.
“We need to develop more brain-friendly, healthier types of sports,” Omalu said. “We have elevated sports to the level of a religion. We’re in denial of the truth.”
Omalu warns parents that kids who play one of the "big six" sports are more likely to suffer health complications later in life.
So which sports should kids avoid playing?
Omalu said the dangerous sports to avoid are "American football, ice hockey, mixed martial arts, boxing, wrestling, and rugby."
He suggested that parents wait until their child turns 18 to let them play contact sports. He also likened sustaining "repeated blows to the head" on the field to the "fundamental definition of child abuse" because "intentionally exposing our children to the risk of brain damage."
"If and when a child plays a high-impact, high-contact sports, that child receives blows to the head ... sometimes more than 50 blows per game, and that child has a 100% risk of exposure to brain damage," he later explained to Goodhousekeeping.com.
Omalu singled out football as the most dangerous of them all, but he also pointed out other, less aggressive sports like soccer and lacrosse.
Instead, he urges parents to get their kids involved in sports like "swimming, track and field, volleyball, baseball, badminton, table tennis and lawn tennis."
While Omalu's warning shouldn't be taken lightly, this isn't exactly new information. In 2014 and again in 2016, research showed that children who suffer just one concussion are more likely to develop a psychiatric illness as adults and die before the age of 42.
We all know that every sport has its risks which why coaches and schools have precautionary measures like baseline testing in place.
According to Christopher Bienkiewicz, Athletic Trainer, and Dr. Caitlin Mancuso, Director of Physical Therapy at SportsCare, these tests "can provide important information about changes in function when an injury occurs."
They also highlighted that it is important for "parents, coaches and athletes to be able to recognize symptoms of a concussion so it can be treated as quickly as possible.
"There are instances where symptoms may not be apparent right away at the field, and will present after the athlete returns home."
"Sports are a fundamental part of developing physical skills and social interaction in youth athletes," Bienkiewicz and Mancuso added. "No matter the sport, understand the physical demands and skills that your child will have to learn. Do research on the quality of the sport program, coaching staff and injury management protocol to ensure that your child is in good hands and the staff is able to make safe decisions."
At the end of the day, no doctor can stop your healthy child from playing one of the big six sports, so the decison to let your child get on the field is ultimately up to you.
Does your child play a high-impact sport? Let us know!