Why My Kids Will Never Play Tackle Football

The steady drumbeat of negative news about head injuries in the NFL has reinforced my decision not to let my kids play tackle football. Not that my kids have any interest in football, mind you. My oldest recently told me that he’s “not a sports kid” and that “he hates to be outside sweating.”

But still, news that 110 out of 111 former players had CTE — the degenerative disease that comes from repetitive head trauma — is not good news for the NFL or for the legion of parents who decide whether to allow their kids to play tackle football. In fact, the report might have played a role in the abrupt retirement of an offensive lineman on the Baltimore Ravens, John Urschel, a math genius who clearly possesses remarkable intellectual skills that might have been impaired by a prolonged NFL career.

How many parents — or athletes — upon hearing that recent report will choose another sport for their kids to pursue?

The report, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association last week, is found at — https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/07/25/sports/football/nfl-cte.html. The report says Dr. Ann McKee studied the brains of players from all over the field, but lineman were most studied and it stands to reason that they would be at greatest risk due to the repeated collisions during play. Some have described those collisions as mini-car accidents occurring dozens of times per game or practice.

The report is fascinating and frightening to read. For those of us who enjoy watching football, it’s impossible not to think about the long-term trauma involved in the game every time we huddle in front of the tv on Sunday afternoons. By supporting the game are we implicitly supporting the violence it contains? Are we aiding and abetting the injury to its players?

Of course, the NFL is the subject of lawsuits from former players and they sport’s leaders have acknowledged a link between CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) and the sport. But the NFL remains a multi-billion dollar enterprise and one of the most popular sports in the world. The sport’s reach knows no bounds and there is talk every year of expansion into markets worldwide. So, armed with that information is there any doubt that the sport will continue it’s success unfettered?

I never played tackle football as a kid, even though I played endless games of 2-hand touch with my buddies and, as an adult, I played a few seasons of flag football. But knowing what I know now, I’m glad I never donned a helmet and pads. And my sons never will, either.

(Photo credit: WBUR via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND)


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