Should You Let Your Child Play Football?
Football is one of America’s favorite sports, but it is also a rather violent sport that can make a mom cringe at the sight of her child being tackled. As a mom of two boys, I’m not sure I want to see either of them play, but I realize that my son(s) may want to play this game, especially since my oldest has a natural athletic ability and love of sports.
Of course, encouraging different sports, as well as other extracurricular activities, is healthy for a child’s physical and social development, but there are also dangers that as parents we must be aware of. With delicate brains that are still growing, any game that can cause head trauma should raise red flags. Playing football, with constant hits to the head, can lead to not only concussions, headaches, and memory loss, but also cause chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which can ultimately lead to death.
A Deadly Game
Football is a rite of passage for many high school students, especially when they are on the team during their senior year. This was the case for Nathan Stiles, a Kansas high school 2010 senior and Homecoming King, who was also the star running back of his team. Yet the final game of the year, which should have been a celebration, was anything but since it was also the final game of his life.
Earlier in the season, Nathan suffered a concussion during the Homecoming game. To be cautious, he sat out for several weeks before returning to the game after a doctor’s release. Despite recurring headaches, he reportedly felt fine and was ready to play again. After several hits during the game, he walked off the field complaining of head pain and suddenly collapsed. Tragically, the next morning he was pronounced dead and the research to how and why he died began.
Is Football Worth the Risk?
Nathan was the youngest reported case of (CTE), which is a brain degenerative disease found in athletes, who have a history of head trauma. According to the Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, the brain degeneration caused by CTE is “associated with memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and, eventually, progressive dementia”. For those of you who know someone with Alzheimer’s disease, this description probably sounds familiar, and that is because neuroscientists are finding many similarities between these two forms of brain disease. Shockingly, the same type of damage seen in Alzheimer’s patients has been found in football players in their 40s and 50s. And it was also seen in the brain of 17-year-old Nathan Stiles.
Heartbreaking cases like this are rare, but they also speak to all of us as parents, that we must watch out for our children, no matter what their age. Yes, sports are important developmentally, and they can even lead to college scholarships and career moves, but there are some serious dangers we must be aware of. That chance at fame or fortune isn’t worth the rest of your child’s life. I still don’t have the perfect answer for my children, but I do know that I will be overly cautious with any injury in sporting events and I hope you will do the same.
So, when your child asks you to sign the release to play football, how will you answer?