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 #17 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports With Legendary New York Times Sports Columnist Robert Lipsyte – We chat about Lipsyte’s amazing career and some of the athletes he covered and got to know well, like Muhammad Ali, as well as his relationships with fellow sports journalists like Bob Costas and Howard Cosell.
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Episode #16 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Andrew Maraniss: Outstanding Author of Books That Focus On the Intersection of Sports, History and Social Justice.
Episode #15 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Psychology with Dr. Tim Rice. We discuss the growth of sports psychology at all levels, the positive impact that a number of high profile athletes have had by opening up, and the importance of everyone involved in sports caring for the whole athlete, mind and body.
Episode #14 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Making Sense of the Injury Pandemic in Major League Baseball – Gary McCoy is a strength, conditioning and high performance coach who has worked with several Major League Baseball organizations.
Episode #13 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Conversation With Long-Time MLB Exec Dan Evans About What’s Right With Baseball and What Could Be Better – Evans is a former general manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers and is currently a consultant for Go the Distance Baseball, which owns the Field of Dreams movie site.
Episode #12 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Fun Chat With Dan Gutman, Author of the Baseball Card Adventure Series for Kids
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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