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Is Football Too Dangerous?

I think I can guess where the majority of our readership will fall on this one, but here goes: should a game as dangerous as football be encouraged among children? And if not, should the rules be changed to make it safer?

The Economist quotes President Obama on this question:

I’m A big football fan, but I have to tell you, if I had a son I’d have to think long and hard before I let him play football. [T]hose of us who love the sport are going to have to wrestle with the fact that it will probably change gradually to try to reduce some of the violence. In some cases, that may make it a little bit less exciting, but it will be a whole lot better for the players, and those of us who are fans maybe won’t have to examine our consciences quite as much.

(The Economist notes that rule changes intended to mitigate the violence “will not be to spare those of us with tender consciences. It will be to avoid getting sued.”)  

Bernard Pollard, a walking act of God and safety for the victorious Baltimore Ravens, made it clear to The Baltimore Sun that in his view, any modification of the sport is a big mistake:

Pollard accepts the fines he regularly racks up for illegal hits, including a recent $15,250 fine for smashing into the helmet and neck area of Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker, as the price of doing business.

“It’s a car crash every play,” Pollard said. “You can’t take away the intensity. This is a grown man’s game. You’re going to feel it. I enjoy this game. I love giving you my best shot. We play with a certain edge. That’s something everyone knows about this defense.

“I don’t play thinking. The way the league is trying to go, they want you to think about the hits and the shots and all of this other stuff. It’s an offensive game and they’re trying to move it in a certain direction. In Baltimore, we don’t roll that way. We’re going to hit you.”

The author of the Economist piece points out that his personal concern over his sons playing football lies not in some apprehension regarding the treatment they might receive someday on the professional gridiron — “I’m 5’7” and take 12.5 seconds to run the 40-yard dash; absent some seriously recessive genes that emerge pretty quickly, my boys are not NFL material” — but that even youth practice entails too much bone- and head-jarring activity. 

I’m no nanny stater, but I know where I stand on this. It’s where you’d imagine your average Jewish mother would stand on her kids being regularly slammed into by other, larger kids. What say you?

  1. Joseph Eagar

    It’s sad, but I think you have a point; football, at least for kids, is going to have to change.

  2. genferei

    I say let them play rugby. Good, clean tackles only

  3. Jimmy Carter

    Does anyone really think Barry’s a Football fan?

    first-pitch.jpg

    ObamaBiking.jpg

    Joseph Eagar: It’s sad, but I think you have a point; football, at least for kids, is going to have to change. · 30 minutes ago

    Um, no. There are alternatives: perhaps soccer…. or not playing.

  4. Mike Poliquin

    If I have a son, he will not play football. I coached football at the secondary-school level: it is beyond repair. I believe allowing my son to play football is a reckless risk of life and health. I don’t watch football any more and I don’t miss it.

    If you have a son, do as you feel is best for him — but if the government has to print more money on my behalf to pay for his medical care (Obamacare is the law and “easing” the monetary rule) then those wonderful people in our state capitols and national capital will regulate it. This is the John Roberts reality: Big Brother owns it all now.

    We are in full bread-and-circuses mode: the government will make us all subsidize quasi-suicidal games like football to keep the adoring masses quiet.

    My wife will cringe every time my (projected at this point) son takes a hit in soccer or basketball or baseball or takes a tumble on the track. That’s just her job. She’s already got it down, if her reaction to every face-plant my 3- and 1-year-old girls endure is any indication.

  5. Israel P.
    Judith Levy, Ed. It’s where you’d imagine your average Jewish mother would stand on her kids being regularly slammed into by other, larger kids. What say you? · · 1 hour ago

    There are not alot of football players with Jewish mothers.

    (I learned recently that Marshall Goldberg was married to a fourth cousin once removed of mine.)

  6. Jimmy Carter

    …. but I have to tell you, if I had a son I’d have to think long and hard before I let him play football.

    Why not, “…. I’d have to think long and hard before I let my daughters play football[?]”

    Is this lib admitting there’s a difference between boys and girls and their interests and physical abilities?

    This, at a time of discussing sending Women to front line combat.

  7. OkieSailor

    Really?? Our President is so sexist as to never have had the thought of his daughters playing football enter his mind?? Check this video out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=l06NGucUe6A

    This nine-year old was shown sitting next to the NFL commissioner at the Super Bowl last night. Of course in the nine-year old game there’s very little hitting if you happen to be faster than most of the boys (as a lot of nine-year old girls are, if memory serves).

    Maybe we could improve the pro game by mandating that the ball-carriers have to be faster than the defensive players ;)

  8. Western Chauvinist

    My now deceased orthopedic surgeon former brother-in-law grew up tough with several other brothers on an Ohio farm. They’d try to jump out of trees into moving wagons, and damaged digits (great toe had to be reattached in my BIL’s case) on various farm equipment. One brother had his vision damaged during a corn cob fight. Even as a grown man with kids of his own, BIL pushed the envelope by racing horses over rough trails and driving tractors dangerously near the quarry. He was opposed to football for kids.

    Kids are still undergoing bone and brain development through their high school years. I realize high school football is a sacrament for some, and is necessary in some form to play college ball and then professionally. But, yeah, in its current form, I wouldn’t want my kid playing.

    Luckily, I have girls.

  9. Vice-Potentate

    I think there is one point now past dispute; CTE is the central question and its high correlation with former football players illustrates the games dangers.

    The central lie in the debate is that brain damage is caused by concussions, though concussions are dangerous, repeated small blows to the head are the primary cause of CTE making both soccer and football potentially long-term danger sports.

    Success in a sport is usually impossible without direct and continual participation after puberty. Acceptable risk for children must ultimately be decided by parent, and since most kids only play sports through high school I don’t think the repetition dangers are overwhelmingly sufficient to force most parents’ hands in banning their kids from contact sports.

  10. Nick Stuart
    Vice-Potentate: Success in a sport is usually impossible without direct and continual participation after puberty. Acceptable risk for children must ultimately be decided by parent, and since most kids only play sports through high school I don’t think the repetition dangers are overwhelmingly sufficient to force most parents’ hands in banning their kids from contact sports. · 8 minutes ago

    Agree. In the case of full-contact football though I’d draw the line at “after puberty” (14th birthday to put a bright-line definition that doesn’t require a physical exam).

    Too many kids are pushed too hard to play competitive sports and end up having their “careers” injured before they ever step onto the high school practice field.

    That said, I wouldn’t have let my kids play full-contact football, which happily for family harmony they didn’t want to.

  11. Viator

    Annual US fatalities

    Boating = 1,063

    Scuba diving = 105 (1-2 cases of “Decompression Illness” [The Bends] per 10,000 dives) (7/02 Scuba Magazine)

    Snowmobiling = 60

    Water skiing = 47

    Snow skiing = 41

    Skydiving = 31

    Snorkeling = 20

    Hang gliding = 13

    Football = 6

    Basketball = 4

    Boxing = 2

    From Skydiving Magazine, 4/96

    Is football dangerous or politically incorrect?

  12. Western Chauvinist
    Viator: Annual US fatalities

    Boating = 1,063

    Scuba diving = 105 (1-2 cases of “Decompression Illness” [The Bends] per 10,000 dives) (7/02 Scuba Magazine)

    Snowmobiling = 60

    Water skiing = 47

    Snow skiing = 41

    Skydiving = 31

    Snorkeling = 20

    Hang gliding = 13

    Football = 6

    Basketball = 4

    Boxing = 2

    From Skydiving Magazine, 4/96

    Is football dangerous or politically incorrect? 

    We’re not talking deaths. We’re talking long-term debilitating neurological damage.

    I’m guessing no one who plays professionally comes away completely unscathed (without serious neuro-muscular and/or orthopedic consequences), but adults get to decide for themselves how much punishment they want to put themselves through.

    Kids, on the other hand, require adults to use some judgment on their behalf.

    The problem is common sense has been impaired over the last couple generations and we can’t even agree on what might constitute common sense anymore.

  13. Here I Stand!
    genferei: I say let them play rugby. Good, clean tackles only… · 1 hour ago

    You said it! Did America quit when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor!  Of course not.

    So get out there and FIGHT – FIGHT – FIGHT!!!  (just don’t hurt anyone)

    If you can’t take the hit… wash dust ruffles and knit pot holders.

    Here I stand… BAM… that’s gotta hurt.

  14. Viator

    Children ages five to 14 treated in hospital emergency rooms:

    bicycling – nearly 275,000

    basketball – more than 200,000

    football – almost 194,000

    baseball and softball – nearly 117,000 

    trampolines – nearly 80,000 children

    soccer – about 75,000

    skateboarding – more than 61,000

    in-line and roller skating -more than 38,000

    snow skiing/snowboarding – more than 29,000

    2010 DEATHS (adults and children):

    bicycling – 618

    football – 5

  15. Sisyphus

    I was going to go out for football at 14, but work commitments and then health problems intervened. If I had a boy with the same love of the game I have, I would not stand in his way. I would have a long talk with him about boundaries, especially with regard to steroid use and the kind of head hunting that leads to serious injury.

    My exposure to organized football has led me to appreciate the quality of the better pick up games I enjoyed as a teen where the kids knew a draw from a screen and we responded in the huddle to what the other team was doing. No equipment beyond a football and nobody trying to hurt anybody. Sometimes spiced up by a varsity player that was harder and faster then we untrained specimens to give us respect for the difference.

    Weight and speed training and steroids over the past 50 years have made for a far more dangerous game. Bounties? Seriously? Violent felons? Can you pull back the madness without diminishing the game? Definitely.

    But I stopped watching when Dan Snyder started putting grannies and families into bankruptcy for seat agreements during the crash.

  16. Bryan G. Stephens
    Viator: Children ages five to 14 treated in hospital emergency rooms:

    bicycling – nearly 275,000

    basketball – more than 200,000

    football – almost 194,000

    baseball and softball – nearly 117,000 

    trampolines – nearly 80,000 children

    soccer – about 75,000

    skateboarding – more than 61,000

    in-line and roller skating -more than 38,000

    snow skiing/snowboarding – more than 29,000

    2010 DEATHS (adults and children):

    bicycling – 618

    football – 5 · 19 minutes ago

    What no cheerleading?

    I have to think at least sometimes kids get dropped on their heads cheerleading.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/08/080811200423.htm

  17. Charles Starnes
    Western Chauvinist

    Viator: Annual US fatalities

    …..

    We’re not talking deaths. We’re talking long-term debilitating neurological damage.

    ….

    What evidence is there that this is happening in youth sports?  

    Bodies are smaller, and therefore the mass involved is much less.  Velocity is much lower.  Aren’t those the decisive elements to the cerebral trauma?

    Judith, why not reach for general conservative common sense?  By all means, follow your own direction here.  Feel free to advocate for your position to those beyond your own family.

    However, can we restrain the impulse to regulate others choices?  Now, you didn’t go there – I don’t think.  But, that thought is certainly in the air, isn’t it?

    The easy impulse to regulate others choices for things we don’t like ourselves is much more troubling than the dangers of football.

    Guns.  Obesity.  Smoking.  Risk taking.  Corporal punishment.  SUVs.  Religious Beliefs.  Now football?

  18. Devereaux

    When my parents sent me off to high school, one rule my dad imposed was that I was not to play football. He had played as a kid and thought it was too dangerous. I ended up rowing crew and wrestling. 

    My kids played soccer, tennis, field hockey (daughter), basketball, and baseball. Both learned to play golf.  My son seriously damaged his ankle, to the point of needing surgery to repair it (not common) in soccer, yet to this day he plays (he’s 32) in local leagues with his friends.

    I have held that things you want your kids to do later in life they should learn early in life. So they learned to play tennis, golf,  ski – and shoot. They could drop the sport once they learned and pick it up later, and that has proven true. My daughter, e.g., learned to play golf but showed no interest – until recently, when it became useful in work.

    I would suggest parents aim to have children learn sports they can carry all their lives.

  19. Perhaps this would be a good ‘issue’ brought up by the nannies to just dismiss and not react to, for once, even if it’s just killing you to respond to the discussion- remember to them it is not a discussion but an agenda. 

    You know, just say something like ‘Whatever. I think individuals can decide for themselves and their kids. It’s so bossy and controlling.’

    Then say something like, ‘What do you think about impeachment proceedings for the president?’. Watch the conversation change…let them react.

    What if ALL conservative media figures did this. Just laughed and dismissed, changed the conversation and let THEM react.

  20. Larry3435

    I like the Obama quote.  Like all Obama quotes, it starts off with an assertion he doesn’t really mean (“I’m a big football fan”), which he then proceeds to undermine.  

    In his mind, Obama is following a Hegelian dialectic – thesis, antithesis, synthesis.  

    In fact, he’s just a liar.

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