Is There a Sport You Wouldn’t Let Your Child Play?

stanford vs cal football poster

By Gabrielle. Vintage football poster here.

Last week, an article about football injuries showed up in my Facebook timeline. It was from last year and it talks about how 96% of former NFL players in the study, show signs of brain damage. 96%. That is insane.

So far, I haven’t had a child with any interest in playing football, so it hasn’t been something I’ve had to think about from that perspective. But I do find myself with mixed feelings about football in general.

I have very happy memories of attending high school football games, and seeing the community come together in support. I have even better memories of attending college football games with my dad who was a huge fan, always hanging a team flag outside our front door on game days. I love the cheers and the enthusiasm and the fall sweaters and the face paint. The whole thing feels very All-American and since I grew up with it, it’s also familiar and cozy. Of course, I also have many dear friends who have kids playing on football teams right this minute, and I love seeing the photos in my social streams.

On the other hand, I realized the other day that I don’t watch professional football at all, and haven’t in years — even if I attend a Superbowl party, I’m not likely to watch any of the game. I can’t seem to support the NFL as an organization. And it’s pretty impossible for me to get over the fact that as I watch a game, the players involved are literally sustaining injuries that will affect them (and their families) throughout their lives. Their injuries should not be my entertainment.

Obviously, injuries happen in every sport, but with football it feels different to me, because of the frequency, type and severity of the injuries. It makes me wonder what I would do if my kids wanted to play. Would I let them? Maybe through middle school? Or through high school? As for college, I find myself supportive of intramural sports, but anything that is monetized at the college level can stress me out if I think about it — it’s not okay that universities are making huge dollar signs off of kids who aren’t compensated beyond tuition and housing, could likely sustain life-long injuries, and are prevented from being serious students because of the time commitment of the sport. But I suppose that’s a whole other topic. : )

What’s your take? Is there any sport — football or otherwise — you wouldn’t let your kids play? Do you (like me) have mixed feelings about football? Or do your feelings change depending on the age range? NFL versus college versus high school? Do you live in a town where football is a big deal? If your kids play, have you seen the coaches make any changes that prevent injuries? I’d love to hear!

72 thoughts on “Is There a Sport You Wouldn’t Let Your Child Play?”

  1. My kids are in their late 30’s and early 40’s now but I never allowed football or hockey. Even back then we had a clue about the head injuries not to mention the steriod use and other drug abuses. We did swimming sooccur baseball wresling and golf. The boys thought I was really mean but have all thanked me since they have grown up and have kids of their own. I also never allowed guns or play guns of any kind. I wanted to raise boys who used logic to win their way not force, now if I had only learned to spel……

  2. Ten, even five years ago this would n’t be much of a topic but so much has been learned in recent years between the relationship between concussion and future neurological diseases. And, as the daughter of a mother who has suffered from a rare dementia for more than 10-years and witness to my father-in-laws battle with Alzheimer’s disease I can adamantly say that I would fall into the category of prevention at all cost.

    It should be noted that while football players have been actively discussed in the media in recent years, statistically soccer players suffer from more concussions they football players. In our community the youth Club soccer leagues have instituted a baseline concussion screening for all players and a concussion protocol for any player demonstrating signs of concussion while playing.


  3. It is hard. My son plays high school rugby which is similar to football with no pads, no helmet. The hits are different since there are no pads or helmets for the opposing player to use as leverage, but there is still plenty of chances for a concussion. My son didn’t play before freshman year (and I don’t think he’ll play in college), but he is very passionate about the game to the point that he is now a certified ref. He has had one concussion. There is no easy answer when they love the game so much.

    It has been helpful that everyone from the trainers to the coaches to the school nurses are aware and concerned about concussion identification and treatment. Also, I know kids that have gotten concussions playing volleyball and water polo, so the risk is there even in the “safe” sports.

  4. I think I would be very hesistant to sign off on letting my kids play football one day. I only have 1 daughter now (one tbd baby on the way) but I think I may draw the line when it comes to that. I was raised myself knowing that my mom didn’t want my brothers to play football. She encouraged baseball, tennis, karate, fencing etc during the early and HS years.

  5. In Canada our football culture is much less dominant than many parts of the United States. It’s no big thing if your kids don’t play football , it would be more unusual if a child did play football before high school.

    My bigger issue is Hockey. Locker room culture scares me so much! I know many wonderful men who grew up playing hockey and seem to have become decent human beings, but from what I’ve heard, locker room talk is the last thing I want my future sons to be around. It’s a tough call, I never want to limit my kids from things they want to pursue, and I’d like to think that my parenting will be a stronger influence than locker rooms, but it makes me nervous.

  6. Tough one. With a 4 and 6 year old I haven’t been faced with this much yet, but my husband and I have discussed the fact that neither of us would be comfortable with our kids on the football field. Oddly, though, I think he seems more okay with hockey (not sure exactly why). Neither of my kids appears to be particularly athletic yet–they’re small and love to run around but don’t have an affinity for organized sports–although my older son is an amazing climber. Individual contributor sports like track, climbing, swimming, etc. would probably be easier for us to stomach, but I’ll be interested to see how we all feel about it as they get older.

  7. Pamela Balabuszko-Reay

    Football and hockey are a no for me. As much for the injuries as for the culture (it just isn’t me-no judgement on anyone who loves those games).

    Soccer has high concussions. My son plays (non traveling) soccer. He really enjoys it. My daughter is a synchronized swimmer. High concussion rate there too. But she loves it. I’m very aware of research about concussions. Very concerning. It is all about risk assessment on that I guess. Not easy.

    Here is my main issue right now: Artificial turf fields with tire crumb rubber infill. Think 40,000 shredded automobile tires on an average field. In our community they are adding a ton of new artificial turf fields. There is an obsession with athletics at all costs. Tires are toxic. I can’t begin to tell you about the power of this industry (think of lobbyists and tactics like big tobacco). Communities all over the country (and world for that matter) are dealing with these fields. It is a complicated subject matter. It has led to me supporting work on legislation in MN for a moratorium on tire crumb rubber (and chunks on playgrounds too). There is a new federal study on this material. Most parents don’t even know what their kids are on-in athletics and for our kids, PE too. There is a lot of misinformation about the safety of these fields regarding concussions. They can be very problematic depending on maintenance. So they can be dangerous too. I won’t even get into the rest of the issues we are concentrating on.

    So- all of that to say-I’ll have to make decisions about my son playing soccer because of turf fields. Up until now he has been able to play on grass. The turf fields are closing in. It makes me really sad.

    Here is a link to our FB page.

    Gabrielle-if it isn’t cool to provide this link about what I’m dealing with in deciding if my son can play on these fields please feel free to delete my comment. Figured people may be curious about what I’m talking about. But it is your blog and I respect that!

    1. This is so interesting, and something I’ve wondered about, too. I’ll be checking out your FB page. A couple weeks ago our HS football team had to cancel a game with a visiting team because a bunc of their player had Coxsackie virus, which is unusual among high school kids. Their team plays on a turf field, and apparently they harbor germs. Our own town voted down a new (and very costly) turf field and track. Sounds like we dodged a bullet.

      1. Pamela Balabuszko-Reay

        Tracey- I’m glad you dodged a bullet there. Yes- they do harbor germs. Including staff. We have parents who won’t let their kids play on them for that reason too-turf burns are really nasty and a big entry point for germs. So more decisions about not allowing our kids play certain sports. I never knew parenting would have so many weird twists and turns. Such an interesting question from Gabrielle.
        ps Please go to the FB page and let us know your town. We are trying to track infection outbreaks if there is a possibility of a link.

  8. I would strongly discourage my kids from playing football, or from boxing. Luckily, my son is a runner, and my daughter takes karate, so we haven’t had an issue with this. In the South, football is a big deal, and it really bothers me the extent to which it is idolized. My son’s middle school football team gets a disproportionate amount of attention and funding (even though they haven’t won a game this season), and I feel like cross country, soccer, and volleyball suffer in comparison.

    1. Pamela Balabuszko-Reay

      Eleanor- Our school’s funding of football compared to other sports is out of whack too. In addition, girls’ sports are not supported the way boys’ sports are.

  9. I’m in New England and hockey is king in my town, followed by football and lacrosse. Soccer is popular, but not as much as these three. My husband and I were repeatedly asked to allow our son to play football. We stuck to our guns and said no, most especially do to his size, which is very lean. Ironically, his size was exactly why they wanted him–he is considered Quaterback size, whatever!

    We also wouldn’t let him play hockey (he has never had interest anyway) because of the culture surrounding it. **And I don’t mean the kids who play. I’m talking about the culture of the hockey parents in this area which is a whole other post.

    So, yes. We have said no to football and would say no to hockey.

  10. Sobering to me as I settled into the stands to watch my son’s HS football game to see the ambulance waiting on the sidelines.

    But he LOOOVED the sport.

  11. I don’t like football. I don’t really to watch it or anything. My kids probably won’t play it because they won’t be exposed to it. I doubt they are really going to excel at any sport because my husband and I just aren’t that into sports in general. My family growing up was more into basketball–but really ANY sport has injuries that you might have to deal with the rest of your life.

  12. I am a hard no on football and happily my partner agrees. We’d both love it if our boys were into mountain biking or climbing or snowboarding and were involved with a team or a club as a result of that. My husband played baseball from 3 through college and has mixed feelings about that. I am going to campaigning hard for no impact, lifelong sports for sure!!!

    1. I totally agree with you on the lifelong sports, I wish I stuck to tennis lessons for this reason. Interesting that you are ok with snowboarding but not football. I love snow skiing but a few years ago injured my knee and ended up in the small mountain hospital. I had to wait ages to see the Dr. because someone came in just after me needing to be resuscitated…from her facial expressions, sadly I don’t think the patient survived. When telling this to a friend who worked in the mountain resort admin office she told me that on average someone dies from a mountain accident every week!!! And thats just at that one resort!! I never knew skiing and snowboarding was so dangerous! It’s not going to stop me from skiing but unlike myself (back in the day), my kids will certainly be learning to ski with helmets on and I’ll never go without one again. Not sure what else I can do to protect myself but I’ve woken up to the fact that no matter how fun snow sports are, they definitely aren’t the safest :(

      1. Wow that must have been a sobering experience to be witness to. I grew up in a small mountain town and I’ve got to say,1 person dying a week on the mountain sounds awfully high. My husband and I wear helmets every time and our boys will as well. There are certainly hazards and freak accidents but I feel more nervous every time we drive on the interstate. Something I look forward to about snowboarding and skiing is that they teach a lot of things like spatial awareness, acceptable risk taking, independence and mountain awareness and I’m really excited to teach my boys those things through it. For me, football has a lot of risks with minimal rewards. Life is all about balancing those risks and rewards eh? It has never felt that way more since I started making choices for my little humans!

  13. I have issues with girls and dance. Humans have been dancing since, well, forever. It’s beautiful, great exercise, and is truly a life-long activity. But our society’s narrow offerings for girls are too close to pageantry. I really wish there were more options out there.

    1. I have a daughter who is a dancer and loves it, but I have been very vigilant about where/for whom she dances with and we decided early on with our kids that we wouldn’t do competition/travel type teams (just can’t with 4 kids, husband who travels for work and keeping life sane). Because of that she has been able to explore different dance types and achieve her goal of getting up on pointe. She is never going to make dance as a career, but she has become a graceful, beautiful dancer in her own way without any body issues. I guess the point I’m trying to make, Amy, is that there are options out there, you just have to look for them and do your homework.

      1. My girls dance, but not at one of those ” dance moms” type competition studios. I can’t handle that. My youngest would like to do gymnastics, but I also worry about body issues developing. I don’t have boys
        , but I wouldn’t allow football or boxing. I live where football doesn’t seem to be a big thing, I guess they play lacrosse here.

  14. I’m a pediatric neuropsychologist. I banned football and hockey (we live in Canada) before our sons were born. Based on our older one experiencing 2 concussions (one minor when he was a toddler and catapaulted after tripping while running and hit a cabinet on a corner and the second, more moderate to severe, at school when a much bigger child came running around the corner and plowed right over him) before he was 6, he’s banned from all contact sports including soccer but he isn’t my athletic kiddo so we aren’t battling and he is a happy bike rider and tree climber. You can’t prevent every concussion (as evidenced by our experiences) and you have to respond to the “cards you are dealt.”

  15. When our sons were little and we had these kinds of convos, we agreed NO SPORTS until/unless the interest came from the boy. One son ran track for one year and played multiple intramural sports like ultimate frisbee and broom ball. The other son played soccer seriously through college as well as dabbled in baseball and basketball. As teens/young adults they were both active snowboarders, hikers, snowshoers, kayakers. The son who was less involved with sports is SCUBA certified and taught at the Great Barrier Reef post-college. I have had intermittent angst about all of these activities as each one poses risk to life and limb. I’d like to think we would have vetoed football and hockey if it had come up. Certainly boxing without question. Part of me is glad my sons had these varied experiences and that they’re both fit and capable adults who still actively participate in lifelong exercise…particularly hiking, cross-country skiing, and paddling. Such a tough line to walk between honoring/supporting your children’s interests (and letting go) and trying to keep them safe.

  16. I have a problem with gymnastics. My younger daughter wants to try and tells me all the time how flexible she is…but gymnastics scares me. We have her in ballet and she’s doing it but not in love with dance. I feel bad about this issue even as I write about it…no real answer here…just putting it out in the universe.

    1. I was a competitive gymnast from age 8-16 and coached competitive gymnasts for just as many years. My daughter has expressed an interest in the sport and I’ve discouraged her in every way I can.
      Coaches were very hard on us and set incredibly high expectations. I became driven by the need to meet or exceed their requests. I think it was good for me in many ways and I loved the sport to an obsessive level. It gave me discipline. It was a huge part of my self identity and self confidence. But later in life I realized (with help of a therapist) that I had this “just suck it up and do it” inner monologue that was driving me to take on too much, and neglect myself physically and emotionally in my quest to please my boss, my parents, my husband, … basically everyone.
      In hind sight, I wish I’d spent more time in a team sport. I think it would have prepared me better for life and taught me a willingness to ask for help or at least to sometimes rely on others.

  17. A subject that’s been under a lot of discussion in my house over the last few weeks, as my son’s school has introduced contact rugby this year. We questioned this and were given the option to opt out, which we did, but we were in the minority possibly bc it wasn’t presented as an option until we complained?). So my son plays tag rugby with a few others while most of the class plays contact. This difficult thing is that my son really wants to play contact – he’s sporty and he sees most of his friends playing (and frankly, it sounds like most of the teaching is focused on it) and he just doesn’t understand why we won’t let him.

  18. My own sons weren’t interested in football so it wasn’t on my radar, but I became increasingly worried about the issue of their weight when they wrestled. It’s a great sport, but like many girl’s sports it seemed their weight became the central focus of workouts and meets and I got tired of watching them struggle with their (very healthy and normal) bodies. I don’t like any sport that damages a child’s physically or emotionally even if they love it. My children loved lots of things that were too dangerous for them, but my job was to filter out the things I knew to be unworthy of the risk. With that said, any activity can become unhealthy if it is the child’s only focus.

  19. My husband and I have had this conversation, and football and hockey are not options. It’s hard. They both like playing football, and honestly, we enjoy watching our beloved Patriots play every week so we feel hypocritical. My older son did flag football last spring just for fun. But we told both our boys that tackle football was not an option. Hockey is not an option partly for safety, but honestly, it’s also about the amount of equipment and early morning practice and the dedication it takes to have a kid play hockey. Neither of us have any interest in the sport, so it’s just not happening.

  20. I’ve had two boys play football, both under the age of 12 when they played. I felt it was a good age to try it out without serious risk for brain injuries; and there is a rule in our league that prevents kids from carrying the ball at a certain weight. My older son liked the game but stopped after two years because he didn’t like the culture. He now plays lacrosse in the spring and rows on 8’s the rest of the year. My younger son likes the game and the culture and has had a broken arm. I don’t know how long he’ll be interested but I don’t want him playing in high school. The speed and weight metrics are dramatically different and the risk for injuries, head or otherwise, is much greater. My husband doesn’t seem worried.

  21. Fortunately my boys didn’t have an interest in football because I highly doubt I’d let them play anyway. I know all sports can risk injuries, but why risk getting a life-long brain injury over something that (most likely) you’d never play past high school age anyway?

  22. Hi,
    I am a neuroscientist and my lab studies alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. The very first thing I must do is correct you a bit. The article actually states that 96% OF THE PLAYERS STUDIED have signed of damage. That is very, very different that 96% OF ALL PLAYERS. I am very familiar with the study described (I am in Boston) and the one big problem with the study is that so far they really only have looked at the brains of players who had obvious reported problems (there are a few exceptions). One of the actual scientific critiques of these studies is that they do not have enough brains samples from ex-players who lived long and dementia free lives (this is mentioned int he Atlantic article). This makes sense, because the families of those with dementia and behavioral problems are more aware and are the ones who have donated the brains. Those with no problems are not thinking about it – yet. To the best of my knowledge, they are working on getting controls. Of course, it is still scary to know that there is a potential for damage.

    I would actually really, really appreciate it if you corrected the statement in your blog post, because this is how science gets distorted (think about the autism – vaccine issue – absolutely NO SCIENTIFIC evidence to support the link, yet people don’t vaccinate and diseases we thought were a lost gone are inching their way back).

    Now, as the mother of two boys (now 14 and 17) who are both excellent athletes, I have thought a lot about this. My boys play soccer and basketball, quiet seriously. A soccer ball coming at your head at 60-80 miles per hour can cause as much damage as a major football head injury, so I cringe whenever I see kids (including my own) head the ball. Falling on the hard floor of a basketball court can also cause major issues. When it comes down to it, I believe that the studies will show that depending on specific family genetics, one will or will not be susceptible to the brain damage discussed in the article (which would explain why many, many, many football players live long lives with no obvious issues while others don’t). At this point, we don’t know what the genes are that will be influencing this, so I just grin and bear it. My town did just ban heading in soccer for any kids under 13 , and I am thankful my kids don’t play football (my older son noted that the high school teachers don’t respect football players!) . I did not encourage hockey because I don’t like it as a sport and it is very expensive and time consuming for kids to play.

  23. Agreed! Not too interested in football or hockey or rugby for my kids. My dad has early onset Parkinson’s disease, which research says can be caused by traumatic brain injury. He played 3 sports in high school, including football, during which he broke his nose and likely got a concussion. It’s not the only cause, obviously, but it’s enough to steer me away from those sports.

  24. Our decision to not have our kids play contact sports was made right after meeting my brother-in-law’s father, who was an NFL player and is now dealing with early-onset dementia, along with a host of other health issues. We have encouraged our kids to focus on “lifelong” sports, like running, swimming, and skiing–but tbh we spend most of our lesson dollars on music! Still risks there (especially with skiing, but helmets are a must for us!), but we feel like at least we are pouring our money into things they can still enjoy as adults!

  25. We aren’t doing football. We aren’t doing competitive cheerleading/gymnastics.
    Period. I am inflexible.

    I played a lot of sports growing up (five in high school) and I loved it. I’ve had a few concussions, a broken nose, broken toes, fractured tailbone and more. Kids will get hurt, but I don’t see a need to take extra risk. I live in Texas, and I hate the football/ cheerleading culture as much as the potential injury rate. My daughter is interested in everything, so we will find something; my son only wants to run, swim, and jump. He says he doesn’t want people in his face, so we aren’t worried about contact sports.

    1. Thank you for mentioning cheerleading! The injury rate is quite high due to falls, and most of the time it’s not considered a sport so much as “decoration” for football games.

  26. My son is counting the days until he can play tackle American football, and I keep holding out. He plays in a no-check hockey league and thus far hasn’t had any injuries. Ironically, in his school’s running club, he was knocked down by a bicycle and sustained a concussion. A lesson for me that all sports involve risk. (I type while watching hockey try-outs- can’t believe the season is beginning again.) As an aside, we live in the smallest city with a NFL team. I always say, I’m not a fan, but it’s completly part of our culture. If you don’t watch, you’re an outsider.

  27. My kids are only 7, 4, and 6 months, so we haven’t had any football discussions yet. But I doubt I’d let them play competitively (a touch football game with friends in backyard, maybe). I can confidently say I won’t allow them on a trampoline, though. Like football, trampolines are fun, but the risks just aren’t worth it to me.

  28. I wouldn’t let my kids (3 boys) play football, because of the head injury issue, but then again I’ve never cared much about sports. I have a physical therapist friend who will only let her son do swimming, because so many other sports are associated with concussions and other injuries. I think that’s taking it a bit far. I grew up doing ballet (which I have not ruled out just because I have boys!) but my husband feels very strongly that team sports teach valuable lessons that he wants our kids to learn. They are still young, but the oldest is playing soccer and has expressed interest in basketball and I can see us sticking with these in the future (also because we live in an urban area and things like hockey rinks are not close by).

  29. My son played basketball and tennis in high school, so I thought we were in the clear. No such luck. He began playing rugby his freshman year in college and fell in love with the game. I held my breath every time I watched him play, and I certainly saw a number of injuries happen on the field. Ultimately, he graduated having had one concussion. He considered playing post-college in a local rugby league, but I’m glad he decided that it wasn’t worth the risk of injury.

    My son was obsessed with balls from a very young age, and he is a natural athlete. (something that has always shocked me since I am anything but…) He is never happier than when he is throwing or catching a ball. Organized sports were such a huge part of his life starting in elementary school, and he learned many life lessons playing on a number of teams. His best friends are all young men that he played sports with in high school or college. As much as I wished he would have taken up a less “dangerous” sport in college, I truly believed that since he was a young adult it was difficult to forbid it. I suspect if he had gotten more than one concussion, we would have started to have a conversation with him about quitting.

  30. I have already had this discussion with my husband even though our kids are really young. He loves football, I do not. He played football when he was younger, I did not. I am worried about brain damage from it, he is not. There are a few things that have strengthened my opinion. My friends father in law has brain damage from football that makes it hard for him to fulfill his duties and to control himself. I worry for my sister in law. She plays intramural football (I believe it’s football she plays) and has already suffered multiple concussions. At BYU, a member of my ward died because of an injury he sustained during a pickup football game. My husband focuses on fun vs probability but in this case I think the probability of potentially life altering injuries is too high for me. I am not sure if I feel like I could ever ban them from playing. I guess I just hope I don’t have to ever make that decision.

  31. I think this is such a tricky thing. Though I know that football has made it in the news a lot lately in terms of concussions, I’ve actually seen worse head injuries in soccer. When I was in high school, I played soccer and was at a boys’ game where two opposing players went to head a ball at the same time and hit their heads together (at high speed and with extreme force), splitting one of the guy’s heads literally open. He had a several inch gash across his forehead that was deep and a very serious concussion. I’ve never seen that serious of a head injury in a football game at the high school level. And yet, I would never discourage my (future) children from playing soccer. I DO think we need to work on improving helmets and such in football. But I don’t think I would discourage my children from playing a sport they love.

  32. Interesting discussion. My husband and I haven’t decided what to do about this with our now toddler sons. In regards to some of the comments that mentioned not exposing your boys to football and other sports, my father-in-law is not a sports fan at all. He doesn’t watch them on TV or in person. Yet, both of his sons are big fans. My husband never played football, but he watches it several days a week during the season. He’s also very into fantasy football. He is an encyclopedia of football trivia and facts. I find it really interesting that he has such a passion for it without having had a father or uncle share it with him.

  33. Our hopes are pinned on our children’s brains not their athletic ability. That said, they have not been interested in football or hockey. I do have one baseball, racquetball, running obsessed kid, one sorta-interested field hockey player, and one who was into martial arts for years. I would really hesitate to allow them to play a sport that would put their brain at known risk.

  34. No helmet sports in our family. I’ve watched our town continually revise rules in soccer in the past few years so that now heading the ball is banned well into the late teens. And at my son’s annual physical, his pediatrician asks many questions about his athletic pursuits as they relate to things like heading or helmet involvement. He strongly discourages football and hockey. Frankly, my discouragement of hockey was more related to the equipment costs and early mornings. Thankfully, our son is interested in soccer and the area of the country where we live isn’t as centered around football as some parts of the country.

  35. I did not participate in competitive sports as a child so that world is new to me. My daughter (12) plays volleyball. My son is only three and hasn’t started sports yet. We are not in favor of contact sports, including football and soccer. My husband loves watching football (never played organized football, although he claims to have been AWESOME at street football!) but my interest has waned as news of neurological damage has come to light. It is a conflict for me – I graduated from Ohio State and still live in Ohio, so football is baked into the culture here, as well as plays a huge role in many of my most treasured college memories. I often find myself enjoying a game then feeling guilty about it! I listened to this debate about banning college football, which sounds crazy…until you listen to the evidence and arguments.

  36. Such a tough one. My oldest is almost 10 and has been playing club soccer for 3 years. They have a no header rule until 13, so that is helpful, but I from what I’ve read, I think some scientists think the brain injuries that occur in football and soccer are not necessarily all from obvious concussions. There is concern that the brain is repeatedly injured over and over in a game with contact–every time you are stopped short by another player, etc. So it may not even be from an actual injury to the head. That is obviously concerning.

    That said, I guess I am drawing a distinction between soccer and football. He is playing flag football now, and will continue for 2 more years if he want to. I don’t think we will let him play real football though. We are in a small town where football is everything, and he LOVES it, but it just seems too dangerous to me.

  37. My husband played football in college; he was all-American. He still loves the sport and coaches on the side. However, he never allowed our three sons to play beyond flag football!

  38. I came from a sporty household (football, soccer, track, swimming, karate, gymnastics). Both my brothers were local football stars and sustained serious injuries during high school games. My younger brother lost his football scholarship in college b/c of repeat concussions. I just don’t like violent contact sports and wouldn’t offer football, hockey, or wrestling (my husband broke his back during a match in middle school) to my boys. There are so many other options. Right now my boys play golf and soccer. My daughter is a runner and a passionate equestrian though. She fell off a horse jumping last year (age 7). Thank God she was fine, but I think about it constantly. :(

  39. I have a hard-and-fast No Concussion Sports rule. Obviously things can happen in any activity (we ski! but we all wear helmets), but my son won’t be allowed to play football, lacrosse, or hockey, and I’d be very cautious about soccer until I knew the rules within the organization about heading the ball. (I’ve read articles saying repeated practice headed causes the same long-term gradual damage as all those football tackles.) My son is 6 and chose fencing as his sport this year, so I’m pretty pleased with that! I’ll also encourage tennis, track and field, etc. My daughter is 4 so we don’t have her in anything organized yet; I’ll be intrigued to see where her interests lie.

    I grew up in a PNW college football town but we weren’t really into it as a family, and my high school team was HORRIBLE–a joke, really. As a result our HS culture prized the varsity soccer players, men’s and women’s. I played tennis, poorly, on the JV team–my parents made us always play one sport just to be active; in elementary school I slogged through seasons of soccer and t-ball but I switched to tennis in middle school, and I always loved recreational ice skating. My brother played tennis and then became a competitive (national level) rock climber and got really into hiking, camping, and mountaineering! Since we weren’t really into the traditional team sports I’m hoping I can raise my kids to be active and healthy without pushing them into one specific sport I was always obsessed with, you know?

  40. I find this topic so complex and interesting! I have loved reading the comments. I also grew up in a family where most of our time was spent playing some sort of sport. I went on to play soccer in college and consider that opportunity to be one of the highlights of my life. Someone already mentioned that head injuries and concussions are very common in soccer as well. So true! However, great strides have been taken to prevent injury, particularly in young athletes (no headers are allowed until 13 and up in our soccer league). I will say that despite the possible serious injury that can be sustained in many sports, the benefits outweigh the risks. Sports build character, make us resilient, teach us to learn from others, remind us that we’re not perfect, and test the mind and body. I personally do not have experience with football and I do see how one would fear possible serious brain injury, but I also see with joy and fulfillment that comes from playing a sport.

  41. I am commenting based just on what you’ve written for the blog and I haven’t read the article you refer to.
    I will allow my son to play football because the youngest he can play is 14. (he’s 10) He has just become super into the sport recently and will not have the opportunity to play until he is in high school. He currently plays box lacrosse- it has been great but is definitely rough. (My 13yo daughter plays lacrosse too, as goalie) In lacrosse there is checking allowed but it serves to encourage the kids to pass the ball quickly; so when played well, there isn’t much checking. I will need to see football played by children in order to make a decision. We are in Canada so are not in such a football obsessed culture. My children are not interested in hockey, the roughness of it would dissuade me, as would the “locker room” culture; the stories I heard in high school are horrifying and include sexual abuse of young women and hazing.
    That being said my son is not a big guy and I will have to make the decision closer to the time he could play.

  42. Hmmm. Funny—I forbade football and hockey, so my son gave himself a concussion trying out for basketball…. I have no problem being the bad cop/forbidding certain sports (foods, activities, etc.), and I know that my kids may get injured anyway. I guess my takeaway is that we do the best we can with what we know—I would hate to feel as though I didn’t do my best to keep them safe…and life happens.

  43. I don’t have the brain power right now to answer at length if I would allow/not allow my child to play football–but what I can say, is this. Do not judge a parents decision to allow their child to play or not play football- you don’t know their reasons or their situations. The people who have given me flack for letting my son play football are usually the ones who have children who aren’t physically suited for the sport. My 17yr old started playing football his soph year of high school- after years and years of ignoring his pleas, we finally let him. He is 6’5 and 210lbs. (At 12 he was 6’0 tall and 180lbs- as a 6th grader!) Up until high school he played basketball. Then the high school coaches pleaded with him to go out for football. My husband said fine, as long as he wasn’t in a position that saw a lot of helmet to helmet contact. In my experience so far we have not had any players suffer head injuries, as the coaches strictly follow the High School Athletic Associations protocols on when contact is allowed etc.
    So, please dont judge parents who allow their kids to play…the lessons my son has learned on the football field (teamwork, dedication, discipline etc) have been invaluable.

  44. No contact sports! I have a 7 year old girl. So far she’s a swimmer. I secretly hope she’ll keep at it, and join swim team. Another option I’d be OK with would be track. Swimming and track offer the team experience with the added benefit of the individual experience. I love that you can compete against yourself, but also compete as a team (with no contact).

  45. I’m constantly amazed when I think of the money, population, energy and intelligence that the USA puts into football. Any September, October weekend, millions of excited fans fill stadiums throughout the USA with excitement and energy and deep desires for victory. There is something wonderful about College football and loyal fans, but professional football is another thing all together and has way too much prestige for what it really is, making some few athletes and their financiers wealthy and often unproductive citizens. I am aware of the team work that football players learn and even the scientific analysis that trick plays require.
    I’m also aware of the need that some of us humans have to scream and jump up and down and the temporary deep satisfaction when “My Team” wins. There’s also the wonderful opportunity to show that we can be good sports and we’re constantly reminded that it is not fun to lose. (a few very random thoughts!)

  46. speaking of football, since no one else has brought it up, I thought I’d point out, the awesome and wise Steve Almond wrote a really great book on this topic. Interesting reading for all, and I’m not even a football fan! .

    As a far northerner, hockey was a much bigger thing in my community than football, and I feel about the same about hockey. Though I love watching it, I felt (anecdotally, at least) that the violence inherent in the game seemed to permeate my community in the behavior of the golden hockey jocks. I don’t have boys, but if I did, I’d be very hesitant to push them toward these sports.

    My youngest daughter *is* interested in hockey now. But for the moment we’ve distracted her with ski racing (in a helmet!).

  47. What was crazy for me as someone who came to America at 18 from Ukraine is to observe how sports and especially american football was tied to educational institutions here like schools, colleges, and universities. A school having a football field next to it was and still feels the same to me as if it would have a horse-riding obstacle course ring, unsecured rock climbing mountain, or a hockey ring right there on school’s premises.. you get the idea. There is nothing beyond physical education class that is really connected to most educational institutions in Russia/Ukraine and all the specific sports are left to the outside clubs and have little to no influence on the school life. Here sports are so infused into school culture that it absolutely affects a lot of parents (and kids as well) to make decision to be part of the culture never mind the obvious statistics of all the injuries.

    It was very obvious NO for me even before I had my two children and met my husband who was a captain on a football team in high-school and is a professional strength coach for many athletes including football athletes right now. He is American born Italian and he grew in this culture. His turning point though was one of his best friends who he himself trained for football and who is now just in his late 30th loosing everything: his wife, his two children, his job, his house, his sanity and independence because of the debilitating physiological condition that even drugs could not help him with. His friend is living with and cared for by his parents now and he played football all through college in Pen State…

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