Mom's Suit Aims to End Tackle Football Among Preteens

Debra Pyka says her young son's dementia was tied to the game
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 7, 2015 2:03 PM CST
Mom's Suit Aims to End Tackle Football Among Preteens
In this undated photo provided by Debra Pyka, Joseph Chernach stands on the sideline during a high school football game in Crystal Falls, Mich.   (AP Photo/Debra Pyka)

In 2012, when Joseph Chernach was 25, he took his own life. His mother says he had been living with a type of dementia called CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy—which she believes was brought on by childhood football games, NBC News reports. Chernach played in a Wisconsin-Michigan Pop Warner youth football league, and his mother, Debra Pyka of Wisconsin, says concussions he endured between 1997 and 2000 prompted his dementia. Now, she's suing Pop Warner—the biggest kids' football organization in the US, the New York Times reports—for $5 million. Her goal, she tells NBC, is to promote awareness of the dangers of kids' tackle football and to keep younger children from playing it.

Her suit argues, per the New York Times, that the league "knew or should have known that tackle football was dangerous for children and exposed children to head injuries, including dementia pugilistica," a form of CTE. Boston University researchers recently unveiled findings that suggest kids who play tackle football before they're 12 face more damage to cognitive function than do those who start playing as teenagers, NBC notes. "Other parents out there should know what happened to my son and be aware of all the dangers and symptoms," Pyka tells NBC. "I don't want to see this happen to anyone else's child." Football has also been linked to the possibility of dementia in 30% of former NFLers. (More football stories.)

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