"Is it more dangerous for a 13-year-old to experience these hits than a 25-year-old?" she asked on National Public Radio's On Point hosted by Tom Ashbrook from Boston's WBUR. "We think that the earlier in life that you experience these hits, the more detrimental they are."
In Friday's wee hours came tragic potential corroborating evidence from the Kansas City area. A senior running back named Nathan Stiles at suburban Spring Hill High School died before the sun came up after collapsing on the sidelines of a game Thursday night.
"It was a screen pass," Nathan's teammate Aaron Barnes was quoted saying Saturday by kctv5.com. "Nate went down to make the tackle, and he dove at his feet. He didn't make the tackle. He got up and he was all shaken up."
Barnes added: "Nathan walked out of the game saying his head hurt. He took his helmet off. We sat him down and he was grabbing his head, screaming. Coach asked him if he could stand up. He stood up, took two steps and collapsed."
Listen: Kevin Blackistone, Dr. Ann McKee on Dangers of Head Injuries
Watch: Nathan Stiles' Father Discusses His Son's Death
A hospital pronounced Nathan dead at 4 a.m. Friday.
Although an official cause of death was not announced immediately, kctv5.com quoted Pastor Laurie Johnston of Hillsdale Presbyterian, who it said was called to Nathan's bedside by his mother, saying: "It happened very quickly, but he did have a major bleed in his brain that shut his heart and his lungs down."
If true, it wasn't Nathan's first brain injury. The Kansas City Star reported that Nathan's father, Ron Stiles, said Nathan suffered a concussion in the school's homecoming game earlier in October and that his son had been cleared to play Thursday.
Nathan was 17.
"We don't know whether it is important the age at which a person starts playing football," said Dr. McKee, a professor of neurology and pathology, last Monday.
But if medical science believes younger brains are more susceptible to catastrophic injury, it might be time to consider a measure for young players as severe as boxers who sustain knockouts. Don't let them play again for 60 or 90 days. Don't wait for historically very low mortality rates for young football players to rise. Act now.
After all, youth players have not only the most at stake when it comes to their health, but the least reward to be gained from chancing it.
They are still growing. Their minds are still developing. Yet, they are playing at most for a scholarship to bang their heads some more at the college level into other survivors of high school football who are a little bigger, stronger and faster. It is only if they escape more choreographed violence, while excelling at it, that they may be granted an opportunity to make a living playing football.
The NCAA states that about 5.8 percent, or less than one in 17 of all high school senior boys playing football go on to play college football. Approximately one in 50 of those who make it than far, or 1.7 percent of senior college football players, get drafted into the NFL.
In sum, eight in 10,000, or approximately 0.08 percent of high school senior boys playing football, wind up eventually drafted by an NFL team, where on average a career lasts a whopping 3 1/2 seasons.
Given all that we've learned just in the past couple of years about the deleterious effects of concussions in football, it doesn't seem that returning to the field in high school after having suffered a concussion earlier in the season is worth the risk. It might be better to treat such a brain injury -- brain injury! -- as seriously as a blown out knee.
That might seem harsh. I remember being knocked woozy in high school, a snot knocker I think we called it unglamorously. I have a permanent knot on my forehead from my high school days.
That was then. This is now. Standing eight counts could be issued every game now, it seems.
We don't know yet what ultimately killed Nathan Stiles, but if it was an aggravated concussion it shouldn't have. Despite that he was a star athlete good enough for his athleticism to pay his way through college, it wouldn't have been worth it.
Dr. McKee, who testified on Capitol Hill about concussions in the NFL and oversees BU's Neuropathology Core's "brain bank," said football needs to be more concerned about cumulative concussions.
"What we've found in nearly every brain is evidence of this neuro-degenerative disease ... called chronic traumatic encephalopathy," Dr. McKee said of the brains of dead football players her lab has studied. "It's a disease that's only been found after repetitive head trauma, and we're seeing it in the vast majority of football players.
"The conclusion is that repetitive trauma that most football players experience ... is leading to this disorder, and that we need to reduce the amount of trauma that these players experience. Not only through the big hits and the egregious hits ... but decrease the sub-concussive hits that the linemen and linebackers experience with every play of the game.
"I don't know how you get away from it," Dr. McKee, an avowed football fan, admitted.
But she sounded an alarm that football needs to understand players are also putting their minds later in life at risk. It needs to realize, she said, it threatens players' abilities to think clearly and remember things, or do those things that define what kind of people they are.
"If players realize that may lie ahead for them," Dr. McKee said with hope, "there will need to be every effort to reduce that kind of trauma. We think that a concussion that isn't resolved, and a person goes back to play, that can be very dangerous. We have to have an overall reduction of brain trauma."
A good precaution for the youngest group of players who suffer a concussion may be simply to call it a season.