The past couple of years we have been hearing more and more about how bad concussions are and how often they happen in sports. It is common knowledge that certain sports have a higher risk of Traumatic Brain Injury or TBI. Even though it is becoming a well known risk amateurs and professionals alike are taking that risk for the chance of being rich or becoming a legend. However, none of these players were ever given a chance when they were a kid to choose if they wanted to gamble their health, much less understand what that meant. In a lot of cases it is up to the parents to make that choice for them but is that fair to the child? Are these sports worth risking getting Alzheimer’s by the time you are 40 years old? I think there are better options for your child.
Dr. Rhonda Patrick, Ph.D. and expert on nutritional health, brain, cancer & aging, was on a Joe Rogan Podcast a couple times addressing her studies about TBI’s and it’s relation to getting alzheimer’s disease as an adult. She states that for every TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) you receive it increases your likeliness of getting Alzheimer’s up to 2-3X the normal rate. There is a gene that we all carry called APOE which provides instructions for making a protein called apolipoprotein E. This protein combines with fats (lipids) in the body to form molecules called lipoproteins. Lipoproteins are responsible for packaging cholesterol and other fats and carrying them through the bloodstream. There are 4 types of the APOE gene that we carry. We all have APOE 1 and 2 but the 3 and 4 are inherited by our parents. The importance of APOE 4 is a pretty big one in her study because 25% of people have at least 1 APOE 4. The more APOE 4 you carry the higher your risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease. In fact if you have 2 APOE 4, meaning you got 1 from your mother and the other from your father, then your risk goes up an additional 10X.
Not many parents know their kids genes much less that this information is out there. We should start to see a shift in what sports we support for our children the more educated we get on the subject. So what sport should they play? Albeit a biased opinion, I think there is an easy answer. What sports gives you life skills, keeps you in shape, is relatively safe, can keep you active all year round and at any age?.. My answer is Jiu Jitsu and let me explain why. How often do you see 40 year olds playing a sport much less a combat sport. If you walk into many BJJ gyms you will be surprised at just how many people over the age of 35 are training. These aren’t people who have done martial arts when they were younger, many are literally just starting. Many played sports in their youth or in school and can no longer play them for numerous reasons. Of course you can get hurt in any type of martial art but this one in particular is pretty safe. The most common real injury, by a WIDE margin, is hyperextended elbows from people hanging on just a little too long for armbars.
You’ll also get bumps and bruises, the occasional jammed finger, bloody nose, etc. If you talk to most people a real injury is SUPER rare and talk of TBI’s in Jiu-Jitsu is almost nonexistent. BJJ gives you a method of control during training called, tapping out. Meaning that before you get injured or go to sleep you just “gesture with your hand or tap” and the sparing is over. This is why many are choosing this safer more rewarding lifestyle to getting fit and learning a skill over others.
Each year, about 300,000 U.S. teens suffer concussions or mild traumatic brain injuries while participating in high school sports. There have been several studies for all sports related injuries including the rate of concussions. Here are the numbers of only concussions per 1,000 people in high school and college sports from 2005:
The rate is actually higher when playing the game as opposed to just practicing. They are also typically much higher rates when you get into college sports. Cheerleading is also another high concussion and injury prone sport that isn’t mentioned here. Now what is the Jiu Jitsu numbers? National Center for Biotechnology Information has a study of all injuries per 1,000 in BJJ and guess what that came out to? 46, there were 46 total injuries in BJJ per 1,000 people out of over 5K matches. So one would assume that concussions were a very small percentage of those 46 injures. As a parent myself, I have to ask myself is football or cheer really worth the long term health issues my child might incur for a chance at a college scholarship? I don’t think so and I can tell you without a doubt that if every one trained Jiu Jitsu. This world would be a more disciplined, respectful, healthier and better place to live in, with far fewer incidents of brain trauma at that.