By Stephanie Smith, CNN updated 7:44 AM EDT, Fri Sep 28, 2012STORY HIGHLIGHTSConcussion expert says kids shouldn't be tackling, body checking until 14Before 14, expert says, "bobble head"More >
Fourteen can be a time of total transformation. It is an age when gangly adolescent limbs may morph into lithe, stronger ones. It is when the first signs of adulthood -- breasts, hair (on faces and other places) -- start cropping up.
Researchers have found an increasing number of football players who died were suffering from chronic brain damage, including 17-year-old Nathan Stiles.
The Spring Hill High School Kansas football player died in 2010 from a head injury. And now the research on his brain and others could have a large impact on football programs from youth to professional.
The study from Boston University is linking repeated head injuries to permanent brain damage and could mean big changes for athletes of all ages.
Some are calling for a ban on tackle football for youth, others are asking for a limit on contact practices for older athletes.
Researchers looked at the brains of 85 deceased donors, including 33 former NFL players.
Researchers say 80 percent of the donors showed evidence of "chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE, a neuro-degenerative disease that causes memory loss, depression, and dementia.
For Stiles, he died after taking a hit on the football field. His parents say he didn't show any signs of CTE.
"If Nathan had a headache, he didn't say anything. If you have a headache, you need to say something. Kids need to be aware of the symptoms and the outcome if they don't, if they try to be tough," Stiles' mother, Connie, said.
His parents hope other families and athletic programs know what to look for but realize it isn't always easy to detect.
"If they get sufficient injuries in a sufficiently small amount of time, that may trigger this disease, which then takes off on its own," said Dr. Ann McKee, with Boston University.
Many schools are trying to protect athletes by purchasing better helmets with inflatable padding that is custom fit to each player's head. However, even with those helmets, players are still experiencing serious injuries.
The results of the Boston University's study are expected to help the case of thousands of former NFL players and their families who sued the league earlier this year.
Copyright 2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.
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