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 #32 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Prolific Author Joe Posnanski Joins the Show – Posnanski is one of America’s best sportswriters and has twice been named the best sports columnist in America by the Associated Press Sports Editors. We chat about his new book, “Why We Love Baseball,” his new Substack newsletter called Joe Blogs, and we cover topics including how baseball treats its fans, MLB’s numerous rule changes this past season, how the sport can become more fan-friendly, the greatness of Negro Leagues champion Buck O’Neil, and much more.
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Episode #31 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Foul Ball Safety Is Still an Important Issue at Ballparks – Our guests are Jordan Skopp, founder of FoulBallSafety.com and Greg Wilkowski, a Chicago based attorney. We discuss the historical problem of foul balls injuring fans and why some teams are still hesitant to put up protective netting in some minor league and college baseball parks.
Episode #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
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.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
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.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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