HealthDay News — Adolescents who play contact sports, including football, are not at increased risk for subsequent cognitive impairment, depression, or suicidal thoughts in early adulthood, according to a study published in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine.

Adam D. Bohr, PhD, from University of Colorado in Boulder, and colleagues assessed whether actual/intended participation in contact sports during adolescence had an adverse effect on participants’ cognition or depressive symptoms in early adulthood. The analysis included 10,951 participants in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (through four waves of data collection from 1994 through 2008).

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The researchers found that intention to participate in contact sports was not significantly associated with any of the outcomes in the full sample. However, intention to participate in football (male analysis only) was significantly associated with a reduced odds of depression diagnosis in adulthood (odds ratio, 0.70) versus noncontact sports participation. There were no significant associations noted between football and impaired cognitive ability, increased depressive symptoms, or increased suicide ideation.

“Research insights on the risks of participation weighed with the risks of not participating in sports — coupled with rule, policy, and legislative changes to make participation safer — will enable parents and young athletes to make educated, informed decisions based on solid evidence,” the authors write.

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