Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Parent's Dilemma

Patrick Hruby, to me, is one of the great American sportswriters of his era. Today, he put up a new article titled The Choice, and it's a brilliant piece of journalism. In it, he explores the issues facing parents today when they are deciding whether their children should play football.

If you have boys, you need to read this article. Actually, forget that--you just need to read it, anyway.

Here are a few stunning excerpts:
Football isn't NASCAR. It's demolition derby. The collisions aren't accidents. Head trauma is baked into the game. Boston University researchers estimate that the average high school football player absorbs 1,000 blows to the head per season. In a pair of studies, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest researchers recently found that 7- and 8-year-old boys received an average of 80 head hits per season, while boys ages nine through 12 received 240 hits. Some of the impacts were 80g of force or greater, equivalent to a serious car crash.

A recent survey of Chicago public high school football teams found that only 10.5 percent had a physician present during games. Only 8.5 percent had an athletic trainer. During practices, no school had a physician, and only one school had a trainer. This is hardly unique. According to the National Athletic Trainers' Association, only 42 percent of high schools nationwide in 2010 had access to a certified athletic trainer educated in concussion care -- and while the numbers for junior varsity, middle school and youth squads are unknown, they unquestionably are far lower.

As shocking as that data might be, I thought this was even more shocking:
A recent Marist College poll found that roughly one in three Americans say that knowing about the damage concussions cause would make them less likely to allow their sons to play football. Earlier this year, a Washington Post survey of more than 500 NFL retirees found that less than half would recommend that children play. According to the National Sports Goods Association, tackle football participation has dropped 11 percent between 2011 and now. The National Federation of State High School Associations reports decreasing football participation numbers since 2008-2009. And according to ESPN's "Outside the Lines," Pop Warner -- the nation's largest youth football program -- saw participation drop 9.5 percent between 2010 and '12.

You know what? That number's going to continue to drop, and dramatically.

It's not going to disappear--good grief, boxing and MMA are still commercially viable--but I don't think it will ever be as important as it was at this moment in time.

Oh, and a nod to the grouchy old bastards at The Blog for the Sports Gamer, where I first saw the article mentioned.

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