I read an article yesterday that broke my heart. You can
read it here and you should, but in case you do not have time, it is about a family
whose son sustained a traumatic brain injury as a twelve year old playing
tackle football. The injury so drastically changed his personality that
a year later he took his own life.
As a mother, anytime someone loses a child, I empathize deeply with the
pain that must cause. To the extent I can even imagine, well…I
can’t imagine. What made this story even worse was how preventable
it all was.
Collisions that shake your brain inside of your skull are really bad for
you. Worse yet for children. Like climate change and the shape of the
planet, these are facts that science has established for us beyond any
degree of reasonable doubt.
People who have paid attention have known for some time. The NFL entered into a massive settlement several years ago to address
the lasting damage concussions have caused former professional players
and even that settlement has been criticized as insufficient to remedy
the harm. And yet…
And yet, we send our young kids off to play a sport that we know has a
very real chance of causing them lifelong injuries.
It is likely that many parents who sign their kids up for football are
unaware of the extent of the risks posed. Because of this several legislatures,
including California’s, have attempted to enact bans on youth tackle
football. Each time they have been aggressively opposed and defeated by
a lobby of the very people who should be doing the most to protect children:
the leaders, administrators and coaches of youth football. Unlike the
parents whose sign-up fees support them, these leaders do know better.
Ordinarily, I am opposed to nanny state type legislation, but a phenomenon
like this is the precise kind where government action is necessary. An
incredibly vulnerable demographic, children, is being allowed (sometimes
forced by overzealous parents) to take incredible risks without any possibility
of giving informed consent. Even the actual decision makers, the parents,
are likely woefully misinformed. Otherwise, even understanding the incredible
popularity of football, it is hard to imagine that so many parents would
choose to take such an incredible risk with the health of their children’s brains.
Ending tackle football for children is the right thing to do.