By Ken Reed

Unfortunately, as the mound of research on sports concussions continues to grow, athletes and parents are being forced to consider the likelihood of concussions when deciding which sports to participate in.

Concussions have been called the “silent epidemic in youth sports” and sportswriter Bill Simmons says concussions are “the single most important issue in sports today.”

The awareness of the potential dangers of brain trauma — in the short-and-long-term — has effected sports participation rates. For example, the number of kids playing Pop Warner football has dropped 10% since 2010.

If the issue was solely concussions, that would be one thing. But it’s not. Also, of significant concern, is repetitive sub-concussive trauma, i.e., relatively minor hits to the head (e.g., heading in soccer and linemen banging heads at the line of scrimmage in football) that add up over time and can lead to cognitive impairment.

Many parents have said they keep their children in sports like football, hockey and soccer because of the life lessons they learn. But those same life lessons can be learned in other sports with much lower rates of concussion. For example, let’s look at football and tennis. Football has the highest rate of concussions of any high school sport (0.77 per 1000 athletic exposures). Exposures are games and practices in which the athlete participates. In tennis, concussions are almost non-existent.

Yet, tennis has many of the advantages of football, hockey and soccer, including teaching things like “perseverance, the value of sportsmanship, how to win and lose with dignity, good judgment, integrity and a sense of honesty.” Also, research shows that compared to other sports, tennis players get better grades (48% have an “A” average) are better behaved in school and more community-minded in terms of volunteer activities. Moreover, the heavy cardio aspect of tennis actually grows brain cells, while brain trauma in other sports, even relatively mild brain trauma, damages brain cells.

There’s no going back to the “good ol’ days” when sports participation decisions were made with little or no consideration of a given sports impact on the brain.

The question today is what are we going to do with all the information at our disposal?

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


Comments are closed.

Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.