Summer sports’ sign-ups are almost here and since my son turns five this month, he is now old enough to play more sports. In addition to baseball, my son is going to start playing lacrosse. And already thinking of the fall, I wanted to sign him up for football, fall lacrosse, hockey, and basketball.
While playing more than one sport a season will make for a busy schedule, I think organized sports are very important for children and I’m was looking forward to cheering him on at all of his games!
But when my husband came home from lacrosse sign-ups, everything changed. He started telling me about all the forms he had to sign in case our child gets hurt.
Questions started flying out of my mouth like a crazy person: “Did you ask why they don’t use helmets at this age if we are signing concussion forms? Do you realize how small Nicholas is for a five year old? Is there a height/weight limit?”
My husband’s response, “Lacrosse is nothing compared to tackle football.”
Then I remembered a segment on “The View” about youth head injuries. Reporter Stone Philips teamed up with researchers at Virginia Tech and discovered that seven and eight-year-olds get hit in the head an average of 750 times when they play tackle football for a season! My world was turned upside-down. I considered hip-hop dance class, ballet, acting classes – anything but contact sports.
All of this came as a real shock. I love watching football, and lacrosse. I remember a friend having this same discussion with her husband about whether to sign their son up for tackle football and I didn’t understand her concerns at the time since I did not have kids. When she asked me what I would do, I quickly said they would play football if they wanted.
Now I’m not so sure. My husband doesn’t seem as concerned. He thinks boys will be boys. My husband thinks that since he grew up playing football, our boys will be fine too. But I still have concerns that I don’t think I want to let go of until I have answers. What are the rec centers and youth sports leagues doing to prevent our young kids from getting hit? What are the long-term effects of our kids starting contact sports so young. What can I do to protect them?
Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman said (on the topic of concussions in football), “At some point I think players have to understand that there are certain risks, and if you decide that you want to go out and play football, then you’ve got to understand that part of that means you’re going to break some bones and you may have some head injuries. But if you try to eliminate all of those things, then we’re no longer playing football.”
Should we really take this approach when deciding whether we should put our young children in contact sports? Or should I think a little harder before my son starts playing football?