Apr. 28, 2016
Is Youth Football Worth the Headache?
By: Ryan MacDonald
We see it all the time on the news “NFL player retires due to fear of health” read the headlines.” Unfortunately this scarcity has become a harsh reality for football players today. In a society in which the violence of football is deemed as prime entertainment, parents are encouraged to sign their children up for football starting at the mere age of four. This causes huge long-term health problems and must be stopped. Kids shouldn’t be allowed to play football until they reach the seventh grade due to the severe health effects that come with playing the sport.
A Scientific American study found that the average youth football player suffers from roughly 240 hits to the head a season, hits of which can produce forces similar to a high school or professional level player. Even scarier is that youth football coaches are just volunteers and most don’t have the medical education needed to take care of the players nor are they required to undergo any type of training regarding concussion protocol. Thus, youth football players are producing an extravagant amount of force without necessarily knowing the proper technique of how to safely do so. Further noted within the same Scientific American study is that the average youth football player 585 hits that are considered “upper bound.”
The scariest part is that the most common injury in youth football is a concussion. Not only can concussions present short-term effects, but they can lead to permanent effects such as CTE. Ex-NFL player Chris Borland retired from the NFL at the mere age of 24 due to severe health concerns. Borland said that "From what I've researched and what I've experienced, I don't think it's worth the risk." Borland was the 77th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft and was set to make three million dollars in his rookie contract but turned it all down after realizing the extreme negative effects that come in tandem with playing the game. But, Borland is just one of many football players bowing out of the game they loved. In 2012, an estimated 225,287 children down 9.5% since 2010 between the ages of 5 and 14 played Pop Warner football. This statistic is alarming in itself as it shows that many parents and children are realizing the medical risks.
With all of the scholarships available and the fame that goes with football, it is understandable that both parents and kids would feel encouraged to start playing football as soon as possible in order to get a “leg up” on the other kids. However, before signing your child up for football, you must consider how important the safety of your child is to you. Personally, I played multiple years of football both at the youth and middle school levels. I can specifically remember a time in the seventh grade in which I was playing quarterback and suffered a hard hit to the head and knew instantly knew I would most likely have to come off the field. However, when I discussed the matter with my coach, he encouraged me to stay in the game stating that “tough games call for tough players.” Being a seventh grader, I had the utmost both respected and trusted his wisdom and thus, I finished the game. The next day I was still feeling the effects of that hit and went to the doctor where I was diagnosed with a mild concussion. Though I also understand that injuries are a part of every sport, I found the lack of safety precautions taken by the coach very alarming especially to as vital of an organ as the brain.
At the end of the day, as long as football remains the paramount sport it is today, parents will always be enticed and feel that they “need” to sign their children up as early as possible. However, we as today’s generation need to make this dangerous fallacy a thing of the past by not signing our children up for these leagues and encouraging parents to do the same. On a larger scale, we can encourage local officials to outlaw youth football leagues until the seventh grade so that everyone has an equal playing field and that the kids who go on and play football at the high-school and collegiate levels minimize the long-term health effects such as CTE.