Million Dollar Question: Would My Son Play Football?
February 16, 2013
This question has come up numerous times on the web and in the news. President Obama says “he’d have to think long and hard” about his (nonexistent) son playing football. Where do I stand?
First of all, as I’m sure many of you have read before I am very particular to tell my readers and my athletes/parents/coaches that concussions are not a football problem. They aren’t. They are an issue in basically all sports. And I really think it’s about time we recognize that as a society. But today’s post will focus on football since it is the one with the most criticism.
Hypothetical question: Would I let my son play football?
Answer is YES. If my son wanted to play football I would let him play football. But I would not allow him to play contact/collision football until 7th or 8th grade. That would put him at 12-14 years of age and I would comfortable letting him begin playing at that time. Prior to that, I would encourage him to play other sports or even variations of the game including flag football. Why 12-14 years old? I think by that time, my kid would be able to better understand the risks associated with the game and I think he’d be better prepared both mentally and physically to deal with the potential for injury.
I love the game of football. I played it for 6 years and it really is something that I enjoy watching and something that I enjoy working! But the risks of long-term consequences due to concussions at an early age are not worth it to me. There is little value of contact/collision football at the younger levels.
It is unbelievable to me that the equipment for youth football remains largely too big. We already know that ill-fitting equipment is just another cause for injury. If you’ve ever watched a youth football team you’ll see that NONE of the equipment is made for them and all of it is too big. Why can’t equipment manufacturers make knee pads that are actually the size of the little guys’ knees?
I’ve said many times before and I’ll say it again. Concussions are not a major concern to me. They are an injury that happens just like other injuries happen. What is of major concern to me is that we in the athletic world and in the healthcare industry have continually downplayed concussions and mismanaged them.
It’s about minimizing risks. You cannot eliminate concussions from the game of football. You cannot eliminate concussions from any sport! But you can minimize the risks of concussions by being smart. One way of doing so is by eliminating contact/collision football for kids under the age of 12. Possibly even later than that.
That is, I believe, a major step we must take in what is now becoming a “concussion crisis.”