Four years ago my husband and I had our first discussion about our son playing football. We had been to the fields near our house in Gwinnett and watched the little fellows playing ball. I couldn’t believe how hard they were hitting. I walked away knowing I didn’t want my son playing.
Four years ago, it was just a feeling in my heart but as the years have passed there are more and more statistics to back up that mother’s instinct. (Luckily, our son has no interest at this point in football. He does like basketball, which I am cool with because there is far less contact.)
Earlier this week President Obama sparked some pre-Super Bowl heat with a similar comment.
“I’m a big football fan, but I have to tell you, if I had a son, I’d have to think long and hard before I let him play football,” Obama said.
“I think that those of us who love the sport are going to have to wrestle with the fact that it will probably change gradually to try to reduce some of the violence,” he added. “In some cases, that may make it a little bit less exciting, but it will be a whole lot better for the players, and those of us who are fans maybe won’t have to examine our consciences quite as much.”
“In an interview in the magazine’s Feb. 11 issue, Obama said he worries more about college players than he does about those in the NFL.
“The NFL players have a union, they’re grown men, they can make some of these decisions on their own, and most of them are well-compensated for the violence they do to their bodies,” Obama said. “You read some of these stories about college players who undergo some of these same problems with concussions and so forth and then have nothing to fall back on. That’s something that I’d like to see the NCAA think about.”
Ravens safety Ed Reed, for one, agreed with the sentiment.
“I am with Obama,” Reed said. “I have a son. I am not forcing football on my son. If he wants to play it … I can’t make decisions for him. All I can do is say, ‘Son, I played it so you don’t have to.’”
Reed, a nine-time Pro Bowl selection in his 11 NFL seasons, thinks there needs to be improvements within the league.
“We’ve got some leaks in it that need to be worked out,” Reed said. “Every medical training room should be upgraded; training rooms can be a lot better.”
And as he noted: “When you’ve got the president talking about it, you got something.”
“NFL spokesman Greg Aiello responded Sunday, “We have no higher priority than player health and safety at all levels of the game.’ ”
And we keep hearing about players such as Junior Seau and Ray Easterling who killed themselves and were found to have chronic traumatic ecephalopathy, or CTE, a degenerative brain disease often linked to repeated blows to the head.
As a blog community we have talked about whether we would let our kids play football several times throughout the years, and as recently as last May when Steve Hummer wrote a great Sunday piece looking at the issue, including some incredible stats.
“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are more than 55,000 cases of traumatic brain injury — concussions mostly — per year throughout all of high school football. More awareness has meant more reporting of concussions, and the growing numbers have prompted the CDC to declare sports-related traumatic brain injuries an epidemic.”
“Facts sometimes fail parents who are looking for a definitive to-play-or-not-to-play solution. Any long-term damage done by playing football has not been quantified.” “In fact, the CDC’s Institute for Occupational Safety and Health just released a records-based study of more than 3,400 NFL players who were in the league for at least five years between 1959-1988 and found that they had a lower death rate than the general population. That included death by heart disease, cancer and, yes, suicide. The Institute plans to similarly study the incidence of early Alzheimer’s and other cognitive issues.”
“Dr. Steve Kroll of Georgia Sports Medicine estimates that he has seen more than 1,000 concussion cases in the past two years. Maybe 20 percent of those involve football. Other sources may surprise you.”
“One in particular is cheerleading,” he said. “They don’t have pads. They don’t have helmets. And they actually suffer quite a few concussions.”
So do 3,000 former NFL players’ families suing the NFL sway you? Do Seau and Easterling killing themselves and having brain damage sway you? Does knowing that teen concussions are up 200 percent make you think maybe I don’t want my child playing football or at the very least some changes need to be made to the sport? Does knowing the president would have to think twice before letting a son play football change your opinion?
Would you still let your son (or daughter) play football?