Parents, such as the father of Arlington Bowie High School quarterback Tony James, are doing a balancing act between encouraging their kids to play sports like football while also protecting their future.
At Bowie, James is a dual-threat quarterback. In one game this season, the junior scored four touchdowns on just six running attempts.
But James was on the sidelines for Thursday night's rivalry game against Arlington Martin High School, with a shot at the division title on the line. He had a concussion in his last game and is forced to sit out, according to Texas law, until he can successfully complete a battery of cognitive and motor skills tests and be cleared to play by a doctor.
"We know it's a big game, but it's just one game compared to many more to come. So we hate that he can't play, but we feel like it's the best thing for him," said his father, who is also named Tony James.
With the younger James on the sidelines, still recovering from his concussion, his Arlington Bowie Volunteers fell to the Arlington Martin Warriors 47-18.
This week, former Dallas Cowboy and NFL Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett revealed that he has been diagnosed with exhibiting symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
"We know it's not good to have a bunch of concussions," said Dr. Munro Cullum, director of neuropsychology at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. "However, there's really not much known about maybe [suffering] a few concussions early in life and what happens when we get to be older."
Cullum and his colleagues at UT Southwestern and the UT Dallas Center for Brain Health are currently conducting studies of former professional athletes who have had numerous blows to the head.
So far, the studies have revealed a correlation between repeated hits to the head and damage to white matter in the brain -- connective tissue that transmits signals from one area of the brain to another.
But it is too soon and the sample size is too small to definitively say that any specific number of concussions or blows to the brain will lead to CTE, Cullum said.
"We have to be very careful not to put the cart before the horse in terms of interpreting some of these findings that we're seeing," he said. "There is so much more that we don't know compared to what we actually know about concussion, risks, vulnerability and, especially, then risks and factors and changes later on in life."
When asked about hearing the news about Dorsett and CTE, the elder James was quick to respond with his concern.
"I think about that every day," he said. "I think about that every day. They take some big hits. When he goes down, we hold our breath and hope for the best."