By Ken Reed
As a country, we talk and write about the concussion problem in pro and college football on a regular basis these days. But only rarely do we look at the much bigger issue of youth and high school football.
The vast majority of youth leagues don’t have doctors or trainers on the sidelines. What most of them do have on the sidelines is coaches that know very little about concussions. These coaches don’t know what signs of concussion to look for, and don’t know a thing about back-to-play guidelines.
Youth football really comes down to two questions: 1) Should kids be bashing heads against each other on a football field? And 2) If so, what age is tackle-appropriate?
In a recent column on youth football, Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins quotes Chris Nowinski, co-director of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, which researches the long-term effects of brain trauma, as asking, “Why are we hitting children in the heads hundreds of times a season without even the protection we give adults?”
A 2012 study done at Virginia Tech and Wake Forest measured the g-forces of impacts to the heads of 7-year-old tackle football players and found that the impacts in a 7-year-old football game were comparable to those found in an adult football game, some of them at 40gs.
“It looks like a pillow fight,” said Nowinski of a peewee football game, “but the brain thinks it’s in a war.”
Why not put our kids in flag football leagues like Archie Manning did with his son Eli.
“God that’s a great game,” says Manning. “I wish I’d played my whole career in flag football.”
What age is tackle-appropriate is debatable, as is whether or not a tackle-appropriate age even exists. But it seems like — at the least — young children, who’s brains haven’t fully developed yet, shouldn’t be playing tackle football.
There is an alternative, however. As Jenkins writes, if your kid wants to play football, ask yourself a question: “‘How many times should my kid get hit in the head this fall?’ And then hand him a flag.”
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #10 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: An Issues Discussion With Paul Dolan – Dolan is the Cleveland Indians Owner and CEO. He discusses the use of Native American names and logos by sports teams and the decisions to drop the Chief Wahoo logo and the upcoming change to the team name. Other baseball topics include health and safety, possible MLB rule changes and youth participation in the sport.
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Episode #9 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Issues With Ralph Nader – Nader is a consumer advocate and was named one of the “100 Most Influential Americans of the 20th Century” by Time magazine. He is the founder of League of Fans.
Episode #8 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Save College Sports From Overcommercialization and Professionalization? – The guest is Dr. David Ridpath, a sports business professor and past president of the Drake Group
Episode #7 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Brain Trauma and CTE Risk in Sports With Dr. Ann McKee – Dr. McKee works in the field of neuropathology and has demonstrated that “mild” repetitive head trauma can provoke chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a devastating neurodegenerative disease.
Episode #6 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Need for Quality Physical Education in Our Schools is Greater Than Ever – The guest is Clayton Ellis, one of our nation’s leading advocates for getting our young people to be more physically active.
Episode #5 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Youth Sports with Positive Coaching Alliance Founder Jim Thompson – Thompson started Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) in 1998 to help create a movement to transform the culture of youth sports from “win-at-all-costs” to a positive, character-building experience.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
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