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“We knew it was going to be very tough,” LaBracke said. “Because he’s very dedicated to the sport, he’s a very hard worker. This was his thing. A lot of his identity, who he was and who he is, was tied up in that.”

LaBracke, who had a working knowledge of concussion issues through her job as the executive director of the Wisconsin chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said her son didn’t take the decision well.

“On an intellectual level, of course he understands,” LaBracke said. “He would never say that, but of course he understands it. But I still don’t think he’s quite let go of the feeling that this is really unjust.”

Now Nico’s younger brother, Jack, is playing.

“But we’ve told him flat-out, we don’t know how long this is going to last,” LaBracke said. “We may cut this off at any point. And he understands it, because he watched what his brother went through. He was there when Nico came home and didn’t know who his own brother was. I don’t think he would be surprised if we pulled the plug at any point.”

Chicagoan Erin O’Leary has told her 7-year-old son, Liam, that he can’t play tackle for now. And she’s hearing similar thoughts from fellow parents.

“Some of them are just like, `Oh, well, they don’t hit that hard at this age and it’s not a big deal,’” O’Leary said. “But some like me, you keep seeing things on the news, reports that are released, and it is cause for concern. I mean, sports are great. I think there’s a definite place for them, but long-term brain damage is not worth it. They have a long life ahead of them to do a lot of things.”


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