Stop Football for Kids – Risks aren’t Justified
As someone who has participated in some type of recreational activity for more than 300 days a year for in excess of 50 years, I fully understand the benefits of sports in a person’s life. In fact, I even fully understand the benefits of sports in the life of a brain injured person. Were it not for sports, I might not have had a remarkable recovery from a near fatal car wreck, that left me with one of those complicated mild to moderate brain injuries.
For me in the very troubling year after my brain injury, it was a highly skilled, highly aerobic and non-contact sport that helped me recover. It was not a sport which magnified the brain damage which cost me my career and the love of my then young life. That sport was Frisbee. Even before the days of Ultimate Frisbee, I could be seen for hours a day, chasing Frisbees, even those thrown by myself.
In contrast is football – a sport I thought I would excel at when 14, a sport I abandoned at 15 because even then, I was taking “too many hits.” In explaining the results of this week’s research published in Neurology, Robert Stern, Ph.D., of Boston University and the Sports Legacy Institute had this to say:
“So, this should not be taken as a definitive study that leads to policy or rule changes,” he added. “Participation in youth sports is tremendously beneficial. But parents should be aware of this. And if there is an option to play, say, flag football at that age — where one can learn all of the important social skills of team participation and have as much fun, but take the brain out of it — then I say we should do that.”
Dr. Stern is the first person I heard say that the risk of permanent dementia, behavioral problems and CTE was greatest for those who started playing tackle football with helmets at a young age. He said it in April of last year at the TBI Conference in Washington, D.C. Dr. Stern’s talk crystallized much of what I had felt for a long time about the risks of head injury in football and started this path of advocacy to stop football for kids.
There are certainly benefits of football to the general public. I am a lifetime Green Bay Packers fan. Yet, I am also one who is glad I chased Frisbees rather than running backs in college. I feel even better that my son was a star distance runner and not built like his father.
In this decade, parents have access to some of the same information that any business that those selling or promoting football could easily have known for the last 50 years. Will youth football survive? I hope that my advocacy will reduce the number of children who face the reality of CTE, not when they are retired, but within a few years of the last tackle, the last block.
Stop football for kids. They may not miss just a week, but the rest of their life.