As the main stream media, doctors and scientists dive deeper into the reality of traumatic brain injuries and football, I can’t help but realize just how close to home this is for me. I grew up in small town where football was what we lived on once we went back to school in the fall. We were a football town, through and through. But as I learn more about the dangers of the sport and the numbers of athletes that play with brain injuries, and injuries period, I can’t help but feel a little guilty about our admiration for the sport.
Of course I know that football by nature is a violent sport and that the men who play are trained to be as physical as physical will allow. But, when I sit back and think about it just a little more, I can’t help but ask the question:
“How young is too young?”
The only reason this bothers me so much is because my little brother has reached the age where he can choose to play football. He can now partake in the community’s pee-wee league and that scares me a little. With society so willing to accept the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” attitude, my brother is likely to learn the habit of not saying anything when he “get’s his bell rung.”
According to the New York Times boys who play high school football suffered from 11.2 per 10,000 games and practices. Now I know that my brother is no where near the high school playing age, but if children are starting to play this game at an early age, how much higher is that number likely to be? I know pee-wee leagues are not as physical, but yet they can be pretty physical in comparison to the tiny bodies that are playing.
I don’t discourage the little tikes from playing the game. In fact I am one of those that thinks someone can learn a lot from playing a sport. I’m just wondering how many young players aren’t aware of the risks or are too afraid to say anything when they do get hit hard and suffer from a mild headache. The change in attitude towards concussions won’t start at the top level. It might have to come from the bottom and trickle up. Change might mean younger players aren’t faced with the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” and concussions are treated properly without the fear or anxiety of not being able to play for a few days. Shame in protecting their minds and brains from injury should not be associated with this sport. It should be the exact opposite.