By Jennifer Mayerle

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — One of the biggest names in pro football has a message for young players: Part of the game can wait.

In a new PSA, Brett Favre urges parents to wait to sign their kids up for tackle football until high school. The push is to reduce the risk of developing CTE, a degenerative brain disease.

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WCCO learned what’s behind the PSA, and spoke with a district that chose an alternate football focus.

Hopkins Football has continued to evolve over the last decade. It currently offers flag, or what’s called flex football, until seventh grade.

“There’s definitely a concern out there on making sure that the players are safe, and we’re not causing unwanted concussions,” League Director Bo Johnston said.

He said a declining enrollment turned around with the decision, and their focus now is on the fundamentals.

Brett Favre (credit: Concussion Legacy Foundation)

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“It gives those kids the baseline for learning the game, and then we can teach tackle much more effectively later,” Johnston said.

That message is echoed in a PSA from the Concussion Legacy Foundation, the leading nonprofit on concussion and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy research, or CTE. It says parents should wait until 14 to sign up kids for tackle football.

Co-founder Chris Nowinski points to research that shows players will have eight head impacts a year in flag football versus 378 in tackle — and says the risk of developing CTE goes up 30% per year.

“The odds of them having the disease is driven by how many years they play. So it’s not the highest level you achieve, it’s really when you start,” Nowinski said.

He calls Hall of Fame quarterback Favre the right person to deliver the message.

“He’s the … toughest man to ever play the game, along with being one of the greatest. So if Brett Favre’s telling you, ‘Hey, don’t let your kid play tackle football before high school, I hope football parents listen,” Nowinski said.

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Click here to see the full PSA, and to take a closer look at the data associated with it.

Jennifer Mayerle