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Custody and concussions: When parents disagree about football

When a mother and father are going through a custody battle, they often disagree on what is best for their family. While some custody battles may devolve into petty bickering between spouses, the majority of parents simply want to do what each believes is best for their child. Their arguments may revolve around a child's religion, education and medical care. Sometimes, issues like extracurricular activities and sports also come into debate.

With recent evidence suggesting that football may cause serious permanent long-term brain damage as a result of head trauma in its players diagnosable as "chronic traumatic encephalopathy" (CTE), the effects of the sport on young players have raised serious concerns. For some families, football and other violent contact sports may come to play a major role in their custody arrangements.

Three concussions, and more to come?

In a recent case out of Pennsylvania, a Pittsburgh father filed a lawsuit against his former spouse to prevent their teenage son from playing tackle football. The 17-year-old's mother is in favor of this traditional popular "head-banging" collision sport. This has ignited a hotly-contested court case that could set a precedent regarding extracurricular sports and child custody decisions.

Both parents have compelling arguments. The boy's father says that his son has already been diagnosed with no fewer than three violent head concussions--and he fears that there may be even more to come if his already brain-damaged son doesn't get off the field. A longtime Pittsburgh Steelers fan, the man expressed concern over recent medical research demonstrating the long-term brain damage resulting from violent head trauma that can be caused by football players colliding with each other.

The child's mother is pushing back against the father's lawsuit, and has so far been successful. After filing an appeal, her son was allowed to continue risking further long-term permanent braid damage playing football during his junior year. She has sued to gain full legal custody so that the boy can continue to risk further voluntary self-induced permanent brain damage in the sport. Of course, the teenager wants to continue his dangerous risk taking playing football with his fellow brain-damaged teammates and wishes to pursue the sport professionally, oblivious to the reasonably foreseeable serious negative long-term consequences of permanent brain damage.

Families and football

Like many custody battles, this one seems destined to continue for quite a while. The family has entered court-ordered mediation in an attempt to find a mutually satisfactory solution. Courts often require mediation in similar situations when parents strongly disagree about something. And with more families becoming aware of CTE and football-related concussions, there may be many more disagreements about the sport, more lawsuits between parents involving CTE, and more parents seeking legal counsel from an experienced Board-certified family law expert attorney on options available in their own case.

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