Are Sports Killing Your Children?

Are Sports Killing Your Children?
Are Sports Killing Your Children?

Americans have historically denied the truth about health dangers when it comes to things they enjoy and not facing some tough sports realities may be killing your children.

For decades, Big Tobacco knew that cigarette smoking caused cancer and targeted young and old alike with advertising campaigns. Even when the average American knew about the link between health risks and smoking, they continued. Alcohol followed the same path. It damaged livers, led to drunk driving deaths and addiction ruined lives. It took the outcry of organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving to curb alcohol abuse and push drinking ages up to 21. What these two things have in common is that people liked them too much to stop. Americans love football and it also appears to be killing young and old alike.

The National Football League has become America’s sports passion and parents take immense pride in their child excelling on the gridiron. The sport shows little slowdown at any level despite revelations that players frequently sustain concussions that cause long-term debilitating health effects. The headlines about prominent ex-players suffering late in life have given way to more research about the number of head traumas. A recent study of deceased players’ brains uncovered that 99 percent of them had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), what everyday people call concussion syndrome. The brain disorder causes depression, anxiety, confusion, impaired judgement and may lead to suicide. Every time your child goes helmet to helmet on the football field, that’s a head trauma. Every time.

Why Youth Football Solutions Won’t Work

USA Football has developed a program it claims will minimize head trauma called “Heads Up Football.” The basic idea is that kids will now run standing straight up and tackle each other fully vertical. By using this technique, helmet to helmet contact would be significantly reduced and youth football and middle school coaches are often required to get certification. Nonsense. In many ways, it echoes the same false cigarette commercials and tiny labels that say alcohol may be bad for pregnant women.

Football is played at full speed and with leverage. Anyone who has taken the field knows that the lower man wins in blocking and tackling. Players will either lower their shoulder, and helmet, or get run over. Heads Up Football has no penalties for not staying fully vertical. Even if it did, helmet contact would not be minimized when lineman clash. One study indicated the position that sustains the most head trauma during practice and games was the offensive center, not the open field highlight tackles. Head trauma is simply part of the game, just like cancer and cigarettes, drunk driving and alcohol.

The Young Are at Risk

Researchers have had little difficulty identifying CTE in older deceased players that donated their brains such as Ken Stabler, Dave Duerson and Bubba Smith. Pinpointing a timeline has been more difficult. However, a recent study that diagnosed CTE in 110 out of 111 former NFL players also found that 3 out of 14 high school players and 48 of 53 college players had CTE. That means that young football players are sustaining head trauma and brain injuries that will likely manifest symptoms as they get older. In other words, football is killing your child.

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