Are Your Ready For Some Football? (Yeah, Just on TV, Though, Kid. Sorry.)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Everyone was talking about it, all wild-eyed and giddy. They were replaying the moment for those not “lucky” enough to witness it for themselves.

It sounded like a branch snapping in two. CRACK! And J went down screaming in pain!”

They were my brother’s friends, his high school football teammates. And they were talking about my brother’s best bud Jason, who ran out to catch the ball, stumbled on some uneven ground and suffered a bad break to his femur. I don’t remember if it was the start of the game or the end, or even if they won that day. What stayed in my mind was how ugly and and vicious and traumatic it all sounded. This is a game?

Yes, a dangerous one. A dangerous one that our son will not be playing.

Photograph by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images.

Let me take a step back and say this: I like football. My father introduced me to the NFL (and all right, yes, the CFL too) when I was a child, and we spent many Monday nights — after homework was finished, of course — watching the games on TV together. I’ve married a man who’s been a sports journalist for over a decade. He was even the NFL editor at a sports magazine for a good while. Football, with all its excitement and braun and swagger, is definitely welcomed here.

But — and this is the dicey part — we will never allow our son to play the game.

I’ve read too many stories and reports on the dangers of youth tackle football. (And, yes, if you’re 15, you’re still a youth. A child.) Recently, neurosurgeon and CNN’s chief medical correspondant Dr. Sanjay Gupta wrote about the effects of concussions on the adolescent brain.

According to the Sports Concussion Institute in Los Angeles, each season one in ten high school football players gets a concussion, and about 35 percent of those sustains more than one concussion. … [A] growing body of evidence suggests that repeated trauma can mean long-term memory problems, depression, and even early death.” 

I posted a link to Dr. Gupta’s story on the MMM Facebook page. A friend sent me a note seconds later: “But what if he wants to play football? Or play hockey?” he asked. “Do YOU get to make the choice?”

Without a beat, I wrote back: Yes. I get to make the choice.

And my husband is right there with me on this: Until the stacked evidence around the dangers of youth tackle football changes, the choice will always be ours and the answer will always be no.

What say you? Do you think it’s the parents call? If your child came home desperately wanting to play football or hockey or something that you considered too high-risk, would you say — unwaveringly — no?

Sound off below. Interested to hear your thoughts.

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