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
Sports Forum Podcast
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, with over 150 camps in 30+ U.S. states and Canada. We discuss problems in youth sports today, including single sport specialization, the growing gap between the “haves” and “have-nots,” the high drop-out rate in competitive sports, and the growing mental health challenges young athletes are dealing with today.
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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.
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.”
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.
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.
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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