As one of our classmates discussed in his recent presentation, science (and common sense) has revealed that the barbaric bashing of human heads can be linked to traumatic brain injuries. The National Football League is a 9.5 billion dollar industry that will face difficult decisions in the future regarding the safety of its players and maintaining its global popularity. However, that is a different discussion altogether. More than 285,000 children, ages 5-15, played full-contact, tackle Pop Warner football last year. An estimated 3.5 million kids played sub-varsity levels of football. Even more alarming are the results released earlier this year by Virginia Tech researchers on the first study ever conducted on head impacts in youth football. The study revealed that youth football players are experiencing the same (or nearly the same) levels of force as collegiate football players.
Suggestions to protect youth football players have been discussed at great lengths. Ultimately, children want to play (or their parents want them to play) the same violent game that consumes every Saturday and Sunday afternoon from August to February each year. I find it extremely difficult to justify any reason that youth football shouldn’t change the game and/or equipment in order to ensure developing brains are protected.
At what point does the state or federal government need to step in to protect its citizens? Parents can be given citations and fined for failing to secure their 8 year old child in a federally approved restraint seat, yet parents (and no one else, frankly) is exposed to liability for allowing them to use equipment that fails to adequately protect them from traumatic brain injuries.
As a former high school football player and coach, I have experienced and witnessed the violence of the game of football. As a father, I suggest golf.
Link to PBS feature on Virginia Tech study: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/health/jan-june12/footballhits_04-02.html