In years past my son has expressed interest in playing football but I’ve always managed to talk him out of it. I found myself steering him towards safer sports such as swimming. Right or wrong, that was the decision my husband and I made because we felt he was too young to fully analyze all the pros and cons.
But now he is old enough to have a chance at playing real tackle football. He’s big, strong and intelligent – characteristics to get him noticed by the school coaching staff. Organized football definitely has its redeeming qualities: discipline, life lessons and camaraderie amongst other things. So am I amiss to secretly hope he’s not discovered?
Don’t get me wrong, as a fan; I love the game of football. I love watching the game of football. I spend countless hours on various football related activities – fantasy football leagues, Twitter, writing, etc. Although I haven’t directly played the game it has changed my life for the better. I wouldn’t be the female sports fanatic I am today. I am very thankful for the blessings because of football.
Which brings me back to my title. I love football, just not for my son.
What I don’t love, as a parent, is watching my child getting injured. I know I’m hardly alone. It’s not just about pains in the present like broken bones and bruises. The bigger concern surrounds the long-term effects of repeated collisions which are specifically associated with football and how it would negatively affect my son’s future.
That’s what former NFL QB Kurt Warner was basically trying to express on the Dan Patrick Show (in light of Junior Seau’s untimely passing) this week.
Asked if he would prefer that his sons not play football, Warner answered, “Yes, I would. Can’t make that choice for them if they want to, but there’s no question in my mind.
They both have the dream, like dad, to play in the NFL,” Warner said. “That’s their goal. And when you hear things like the bounties, when you know certain things having played the game, and then obviously when you understand the size, the speed, the violence of the game, and then you couple that with situations like Junior Seau — was that a ramification of all the years playing? And things that go with that. It scares me as a dad. I just wonder — I wonder what the league’s going to be like. I love that the commissioner is doing a lot of things to try to clean up the game from that standpoint and improve player safety, which helps, in my mind, a lot. But it’s a scary thing for me.”
Why shouldn’t a parent pass on their own life lessons to their children in hopes that their kids don’t make the same mistakes? Maybe mistake is too harsh of a word but wouldn’t you want to pass knowledge on to your children in hopes of making their lives better?
Just because I prefer that my son doesn’t play tackle football (or other high risk contact sports) does not imply that I’m going to encase my kids in bubble wrap (as much as this concerned mother would like to) in fear of them getting hurt. There are other sports my kids can participate in. There are other activities – contact sport or otherwise.
I know my kids can get hurt any where at any time. My son could slip and get hurt on the slick pool deck. My daughter could sprain her ankle or break her arm during gymnastics practice. They could fall off the jungle gym at school or take a bad tumble down the stairs at home like I did ten years ago. Point is no one is 100% protected and safe. I just believe football has an inherent greater probability of sustaining injuries.
Here is some patient information from the American Association of Neurological Surgeons regarding concussions:
According to the University of Pittsburgh’s Brain Trauma Research Center, more than 300,000 sports-related concussions occur annually in the United States, and the likelihood of suffering a concussion while playing a contact sport is estimated to be as high as 19 percent per year of play. More than 62,000 concussions are sustained each year in high school contact sports, and among college football players, 34 percent have had one concussion and 20 percent have endured multiple concussions.
Concussions often cause significant and sustained neuropsychological impairments in information-processing speed, problem solving, planning, and memory, and these impairments are worse with multiple concussions.
Reasonable estimates show that between four and 20 percent of college and high school football players will sustain a brain injury over the course of one season. The risk of concussion in football is three to six times higher in players who have had a previous concussion.
A study conducted by McGill University in Montreal found that 60 percent of college soccer players reported symptoms of a concussion at least once during the season. The study also revealed that concussion rates in soccer players were comparable to those in football. According to this study, athletes who suffered a concussion were four to six times more likely to suffer a second concussion. Research such as this has led to greater interest in developing protective headgear for soccer participants.
If and when my son asks, I’ll be honest with him. I’ll present him what I know and believe to be true. Knowing me it will be an Excel file with pros and cons columns. We’ll go through each item in those columns and hopefully he’ll come to the conclusion that it’s not worth the risk.
Sorry, baby boy. You have the potential to do great things when you grow up without putting a known danger such as life altering football injuries in your path. Knowing what I know about football and the high risks involved in playing, mom will likely be overruling you on this one.
Uninformed and uneducated
Okay, we may or may not see eye to eye but we can agree to disagree. And that’s okay. Despite varying opinions we are all reasonable adults or at least I had thought so.
Case in point, ESPN’s Merril Hoge reaction to Kurt Warner’s preference to not let his kids play football. Mr. Hoge wouldn’t have looked like such an arse if he had actually spoken to Kurt Warner before going on his “uninformed and uneducated” tirade on national television. But hey, maybe that’s just how he rolls.
Here’s a little taste of what Hoge dished out on Friday.
When you think about what the problem is, it is not head trauma. It is how head trauma is cared for. That is the issue. You are going to have concussions in every sport known to man. You’re going to have them riding a bike. My son is 16, played football for eight years. He has had one concussion and that came from falling off a bike, hitting his head on a curb, splitting his helmet open. That doesn’t mean I don’t let him ride the bike.
In Kurt Warner’s situation, there was a chance to inform and educate those that are uninformed and uneducated. Instead of scaring them away from the game, make them embrace the game by doing this: get involved, Kurt Warner. Get involved with your kids and their programs, make sure they are following the right guidelines. If your son is concussed, if your daughter is concussed in soccer or whatever, what are you doing for that player? Are you removing him from the game? Do you have the proper procedures in place? That is what is critical.
Hoge claims Warner is scaring people away from the game of football. He claims Warner is a spokesperson for head trauma. But does being a spokesperson mean not telling the truth about how he feels when a question is presented to him? Warner may owe a lot of things to the game of football but lying about his true feelings is not one of them.
Head trauma, specifically concussions, have cumulative effects. You don’t get one concussion and have it heal 100%. The next jolt to the head makes it worse and a player who has had a previous concussion is more likely to suffer another one. And for the record Mr. Hoge is very aware of this fact, too. He had his own NFL career shortened by concussions.
So, yes sir. It is about head trauma in football. Prevention is, if not, just as important than post-trauma care. Hoge said, “It is how head trauma is cared for. That is the issue.” Actually, Mr. Hoge, that was YOUR issue. YOU were not taken care of properly post-trauma during your NFL career. So I do understand and commend you for taking that on as your platform but as a parent don’t you at least see where not proactively exposing your child to head trauma via football is also a viable and reasonable option?
I don’t recall Kurt Warner saying he was pulling his kids out of football. In fact, in his Twitter feed Warner says this, “Funny thing… if u read quote, my boys do play & r signed up 4 next year! They love game & I love watching them play!” In his interviews, not once did Warner say he wasn’t involved with his kids and their programs. Warner could be active and doing all these things Hoge is pontificating about. Why crucify Warner without knowing all the details?
In the end, it comes down to a family decision. Each parent will do what they think is in the best interest of their child. Do I agree with Hoge’s personal decision to let his son continue to play football despite the risks? No. That’s his choice and also none of my business.