WEST PALM BEACH, Fl, February 1, 2014 —Too many children on America’s Saturday morning football fields are being injured.
The alarming statistics regarding head and neck injuries may be inaccurate due to the fact that children do not always communicate that an injury has occurred. The last thing a kid wants is to be pulled from the game his parents came to watch because his bell got rung. Typically the first big hit is not the one that sends Johnny home in the ambulance. Quite often a head injury caused by a ballistic contact is a contributing factor to catastrophic injuries. Simply put, a player in a state of diminished capacity is exponentially more prone to serious and career ending injuries.
NFL football players compete in a gladiatorial arena for the fans and sponsors three days a week. Our children playing youth sport football worship these super human athletes and in turn, mimic everything they see and hear on the professional field.
The use of ballistic tackling in the NFL has encouraged the same practice on our youth football fields during games as well as practices. The same encouragement has also come from parents and coaches on the sideline. The process creates a very dangerous combination for the child standing on the field looking to gain accolades from parents, coaches, and teammates.
As a response to the number of head and neck injuries in football, many parents are choosing other sports for their children. ESPN reports a 13% drop in enrollment in youth sport football leagues over the last year. Those statistics do not include the athletes who have walked off the field or cannot play due to injuries mid-season. Instead, parents are choosing lacrosse, one of the fastest growing organized team sports in America, soccer, and other options.
The NFL may be facing a critical shortage of quality football players in the years to come. Considering the potential for enrollment numbers dropping drastically in youth sport football, the NFL is confronted with a business model that will run low on quality resources that provide the game, revenue and future growth. Considering that less than one half of one percent of all children make it to the pros, there is not much incentive to get little Johnny’s brain knocked about inside his scull every Saturday morning. The potential for college athletes’ being too intelligent to risk their careers’ on a game they will never play professionally is obvious to many who follow football.
Many solutions are offered and pondered by the talking heads charged with feeding the football crazed public with information. Most, if not all suggestions and opinions relate to professional football, Rule changes, penalties, fines, and other measures.
The real changes must happen on the developmental level to protect children as well as the great game of football. Training coaches and informing parents is a great start to ensuring that our youth sport athletes are safe as possible from injury and also learning the inherent values of competitive sport.
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