By Ken Reed

According to a poll conducted by researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, nearly 75% of men and 84% of women say they are opposed to kids playing tackle football before age 14. The poll also found that a majority of Americans — sports fans and non-fans alike — feel the NFL has failed to adequately address the problem of sports-related concussions. In addition, 94% of those surveyed said they would classify concussions and head injuries as a public health issue. Finally, 85% believe science has shown that concussions cause the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

“I was pretty surprised at a lot of the findings,” said Joshua Dyck, co-director of UMass Lowell’s Center for Public Opinion and the study’s lead investigator. “People are changing the way they talk about concussions, and this is a first-cut effort for us to try to understand how the public has responded.”

This study reveals that a large majority of Americans are now aware of the potential dangers of brain injuries sustained in football and other collision sports. However, awareness is a long ways from behavior change. The degree of understanding on the part of parents and coaches regarding the exact risks associated with blows to the head in football and other sports needs to increase. Also, most people still think the problem is just concussions. However, research has revealed that repetitive sub-concussive blows to the head/brain can also lead to short-term and long-term brain damage.

While some youth football organizations have shown a drop in youth participation, others haven’t. At this point, it appears that most Americans are aware of the dangers of playing collision sports, however, that awareness hasn’t translated into significant changes when it comes to youth sports participation statistics.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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