Ending Tackle Football for Children

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.