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 #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.” We discuss overzealous adults in youth sports, the dangers of sport specialization, youth sports entrepreneurs and the profit-at-all-costs mindset, and the growing socio-economic gap in youth sports.
Follow on Facebook: @SportsForumPodcast
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Episode #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan.
Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
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.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
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.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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