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. I’m with you on football pretty much. I have fond memories of it but I don’t really watch it anymore. I loved going to games in high school and college. I sure like the background noise of a game on tv, on a crisp fall day. I had to write about hockey. Both of my sons played and play hockey. The game is what you make it. It does not have to be a brutal game. My sons played and play now because they love the game and skating. Violence is happening for no good reason in football and hockey and it should stop. If that happens in a practice or a game, it should be stopped and talked about. I’ve told both my sons to be vigilant in the locker room and on the ice. When things start going in a negative way, you need to say something or remove yourself from the situation.

  2. I’m a Speech Language Pathologist, so I know a lot about traumatic brain injuries. My boys will definitely not be allowed to play football. Soccer also makes me nervous.

  3. I could never let me kids play football knowing what I know. I am also torn about watching the collegiate and professional levels. My husband and I grew up in families glued to our teams games on the weekend and we really enjoy watching it but at the same time I am bothered that I am essentially supporting such a destructive sport. Every Saturday and Sunday when we turn on our teams games I am torn as my young children are now cheering for those same teams.
    I also give pause to soccer. I read an article a few years ago about the increased cases of cancer in young people who play soccer. If I remember correctly, it was from inhaling the artificial turf, especially with goalies.

    Then I start to spiral and think of all the sports if competed at the highest level leave damage to the body. Ballerinas, golfers, skiiers, etc. At a recreation level you want your child to enjoy it and have that experience but you can’t predict if they would ever have the skill, talent and desire to take it to collegiate or professional level which would be at a sacrifice to their body. You know, that body you carefully obsessed over in the womb, worried over every rash and kissed every boo boo. How would you determine the cut off point.?How would you tell your child the years of building up to the level they are in their sport, the years of watching their idols in that sport, is now something they can no longer participate in?

  4. The book Fourth Down and Inches, which is nonfiction, convinced me that I’d never let my boys play serious football or my girls play serious soccer. Concussions are a huge deal.

  5. I have one sporty son who played soccer, golf, and basketball. My mom was an ICU-Neuro nurse, so I knew all about head injuries and forbade football! Like someone mentioned above, soccer is a very concussion-prone sport too. My son sustained a concussion playing indoor soccer when he was six, and after that I never allowed him on the field – for practice or games – without his soccer headgear (“Full90”). It can’t promise to prevent 100% of concussions, but it can significantly reduce the potential severity of soccer head injuries. It also helps protect young heads when doing headers (which I did not allow my son to do…). Here’s a link. We used the Premiere:

  6. Late to the party here! My husband played hockey and football growing up (and football through university). He would love our sons (and daughter too…though despite my inner feminist, I must admit she seems to be much less athletically inclined than her brothers, despite being given the same opportunities [my sons were picking up mini-sticks {hockey} before they were walking and swinging at pucks…her, not so much!]). I am aware of the risks and thankfully my husband played QB so he got hit a lot less than players in other positions. I’m sure it will make me cringe, but I certainly can’t ban my kids from playing football when it has been such a huge and important part of my husband’s life (though for context, we live in Canada, and football is NOT what is in America). My current plan is to have him work with them lots on throwing the ball, reading and executing plays so that they can play QB too! I feel like it’s the safest position. As for hockey, my 6 year old already plays (non-competitive, outdoor – think AYSO but hockey). The biggest aversion for me for playing league hockey is the cost, the time commitment, and the irregularity of practice/game times. I don’t know what rules they have in New England (where it seems lots of commenters are super opposed to hockey), but they’re getting really strict about no contact and no fighting under 18 year old. I guess maybe I’m naive regarding ‘locker room culture’. But overall I think of all the evils and dangers our children face, learning teamwork and athleticism through sport is the least of my concerns! Interesting discussion!

  7. My husband was adamant about which sports our kids would NOT participate in, strictly due to his personal experience in two different High Schools with coaching, policies, and overall mindset that coaches are paid according to wins, and therefore they have an incentive to risk growing youth and push them beyond their limits. Because he sustained injuries caused by poor coaching and even poorer attention at the time of an injury, those injuries plague him with pain to this day. His younger brother was a wrestler, and we were all at a match where another sophomore boy on his team literally broke his neck during that match trying to sustain resistance for a hold from an opponent. I remember everyone screaming and yelling and then the room falling completely silent when we all realized he was seriously hurt and in life threatening trouble. The other kid involved lost it when he understood he had just broken his opponent’s neck.

    So what did our kids play? Soccer, just as crazy imho, rock climbing, biking, fencing, surfing, hiking, and 4-wheel obstacle, and occasionally they’d snowboard. All of these have risk, however more of them do not require a coach who gets paid for your child’s increased risk taking.

  8. I have concerns about football and high-level gymnastics and ballet. For football, it’s the obvious head injury risk. With gymnastics and dance, I worry about the body image issues and overall health concerns. If one of my children sincerely wanted to pursue one of those sports, I wouldn’t “forbid” them to play, but we’d have lots of conversation about why another activity could not achieve the same goals. In any sport or activity, my radar will be up that it is a positive experience for my child from every aspect (coaching, teammates, health, etc.) and that they are SAFE.

  9. I would never let my kids play football. I would never want them to risk danger to their body over a game. And frankly, I don’t like the attitudes of many about sports. To me, any sport is just a game and athletic games are supposed to be for fun and exercise. Yet, sports have turned into super competitive events that involve someone making millions of dollars. To me, this is ridiculous! Parents should place more emphasis on their child getting a great education, rather than playing a sport.

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