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The Politics of Football: Kids in Danger

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Football is America’s favorite sport and kids can start playing as early as the first grade.  Football is a contact sport, so there is a certain amount of danger involved.  According to a study conducted by the Center for Injury Research, despite more advance protective equipment, football injuries to children ages 6 to 17 have increased 25 percent in the past 18 years. Combine that with the recent story of the Pop Warner bounty plays, there is a lot of debate over whether kids under 14 should be allowed to play tackle football.  There are pros and cons to both sides of the issue.

Pros of Allowing Kids to Play Tackle Football

  • Tackle football is more physically demanding and can create a more athletic kid.  In flag football, contact is diminished, including blocking, which makes for less of a workout for the kids. Considering the prevalence of childhood obesity in America, this loss of additional exercise may not be something can that be afforded.
  • Allowing kids to play tackle football helps them get better conditioned for playing football at higher levels.  Many believe that the best way to prepare one’s body for tackle football at the high school level is to replicate it at younger ages.  Not allowing kids to play contact football until high school would put them at a disadvantage, particularly kids who have a future at the college level—if their state disallows contact football but other states don’t, they won’t have the same recruiting advantages.

Cons of Allowing Kids to Play Tackle Football

  • The bodies of younger children simply aren’t ready for contact sports.  An elementary aged kid’s physical development is different from that of a high school player.  According to an article written in Time magazine, elementary aged children are at a higher risk for neck and brain trauma compared to high school players because their necks are significantly weaker.  A kid who receives a significant neck injury may have to undergo some of the treatments such as those seen on grahamrehab.com.
  • Coaches and staff in youth leagues may not be trained to pick up on signs of concussion.  One of the leading football related injuries is getting a concussion after a hit to the head.  Most of the time, people who get concussions are fine, but occasionally, not identifying and treating a concussion can lead to serious injury or death.  Since most youth leagues are volunteer-based, they don’t have medical professionals around to pick up on such injuries as they do at the high school and college levels.
  • Many children don’t have the motor-skill development to tackle or protect themselves properly.  The typical six-year-old barely has the motor skills to dribble a basketball properly, so expecting them to make tackles or protect themselves while being tackled isn’t going to happen as it would with an older kid.

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