THAT is the question. Football injuries, specifically concussions, are headlining sports news – stiffer penalties are being dished out for targeting (helmet-to-helmet contact) and infractions bring consequences of being thrown out of the game. For those receiving the hits, the ‘penalty’ means sitting out a game for medical reasons.
In recent years, former NFL players have suffered from depression, early onset dementia and some have even committed suicide – theories suggest that years of physical contact while playing football are to blame. It’s made moms across the country re-think putting their kids in football for fear of not only the short-term effects, but the long-term effects as well.
First, let me say that I don’t want ANY player to get hurt, period! It breaks my heart to see athletes being carted off the field with season-ending (sometimes career-ending) injuries because chances are, most of them have spent a childhood dreaming of playing at the collegiate/pro level.
Having said that, the last time I checked, FOOTBALL is a CONTACT SPORT. Yes, there are risks involved. I do support the increased awareness, more significant enforcement of targeting and monitoring players more closely that are diagnosed with concussions.
What do football players think about the risks? I personally know many kids, that when evaluated by trainers, can’t think straight or confirm how many fingers are held before their face, and can’t walk straight after the hit. Many won’t acknowledge they feel that way though. You know why? These kids know if they do, they won’t play. These kids, in addition to grown men, don’t want to be denied the chance of playing football.
Yes, be safe, wear all the padding and support you can, continue to have medical evaluations and make adjustments when necessary. If your kid wants to do something different, then by all means, find something they’re interested in and encourage and support them all you can! If you want them to play football, then maybe start with flag football – it’s still contact, BUT also involves a challenge. It’s hard enough catching the one with the ball, but to also coordinate a tackle where you can perfectly snag their flag… well, that’s pure skill!
There are still ‘tough guy’ scratches and bruises afterwards, but as ‘The Coach’ always says, “It builds character and toughens you up.”