We don’t pretend to be experts in anything, let alone when it comes to the topics of football, brain injuries, and proper parenting.
However, just as Bob Dylan wrote, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows,” so too, one need not be an expert in any of those areas of discussion to realize that researchers have made a clear case for prohibiting boys under the age of 12 from playing tackle football.
An article a few weeks ago in the New York Times, under the headline below, states in pertinent part as follows:
Playing Tackle Football Before 12 Is Tied to Brain Problems Later
“The Boston University researchers found that players…who participated in youth football before the age of 12 had a twofold ‘risk of problems with behavioral regulation, apathy and executive function’ and a threefold risk of ‘clinically elevated depression scores.’
“Last year, doctors at Wake Forest School of Medicine used advanced magnetic resonance imaging technology to find that boys between the ages of 8 and 13 who played just one season of tackle football had diminished brain function in parts of their brains.”
We acknowledge that all sports, contact and otherwise, involve some degree of risk of injury to one’s head. However, many youth athletic organizations have sought to limit the extent of contact, ranging from no-check policies in youth hockey to a ban on heading the ball for youth soccer players, in order to protect the brains of children.
Youth football seems to be the one outlier, with boys as young as eight years old still being subjected to the game with all-out tackling.
Some will argue that helmets are being made safer and that children are being taught proper tackling techniques that will prevent them from being injured. However, as to the former, while the new generation of helmets may be better, they still are nowhere near being brain injury-proof. As for the latter, teaching proper techniques to youngsters does not mean that they will be successful at implementing them.