Should Kids be Allowed to Play Tackle Football?

Matthew Geissler, Contributing writer

In a study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, 110 out of 111 former NFL players had signs of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy). This staggering rate of brain injury most likely extends across all former NFL players and current players.

According to the NFL, an average of seven injuries happen per game in the NFL and in college, the highest amongst all sports in America.

The game is obviously dangerous for adults who play, but what about children?

Let’s flashback to a Monday in a distant October. I am in fifth grade sitting at lunch with my friends. During the entire 30-minute period, we talk about football. My friends tell stories about their crazy football game on Sunday, one tells a story of an epic touchdown he had while the other talks about a booming hit he laid on the other team.

Later that day I go home and play back-yard football with my brothers and our neighbors. Ten kids, spanning from 5th graders to 10th graders play tackle football together. During the game, one of my brothers tackles my other brother and knocks out a tooth.

At the end of the night, my family sits down and watches Monday night football, a weekly game in the National Football League. During the game I address my parents, “Mom, dad, can I play football next year?”

They respond, “No, of course not.”

Angrily, I walk upstairs grieving over my parents decision.

However, looking back at the situation, I am glad that my parents made this decision. It saved my brain and my life.

Your adolescent years are the most important years regarding brain development. According to the Raising Children Network, by the time that you are 6, your brain is already about 90-95% of adult size. However, it still has a lot of remodeling to do for the next 15 years.

The most important remodeling happens in your teenage years to your early 20s. So why should children be playing such a physical sport?

According to a study published by the U.S. National Institute of Health, children as young as 9 years old are getting hit in the head about 500 times in one season. This is an extreme amount of injuries in the span of about 3 months. Furthermore, these are not light injuries. The same study stated that some of these blows had the same magnitude that a high school or college football players would receive.

Would you really want your son or daughter getting hit with the same force a college player is hit with? During the same time, your child’s brain is developing for the rest of his life.

Not only can football impact the development of your brain, it can also afflict you with deadly diseases. The most known football-related disease is CTE. Boston University did a study of 211 former NFL players. The children who played football before the age of 12 were much more likely to suffer cognitive, behavioral, and mood symptoms earlier than other players.

Yet, some people still let their kids play tackle football and encourage it. One of their main arguments is that kids need to learn how to tackle correctly and wear the safest gear.

Obviously, safer gear is not helping, because kids are still getting head injuries and neck injuries. So, lets look at safer tackling and how we might solve that issue.

To do so, I talked to a current Lewis Mills Football player Sean Lafleur. We created a plan that could teach kids to tackle properly and stay safe.

Our plan was to have any kids practice tackling twice a week during practices. They would use tackling rings and tackling dummies. They could even wear their pads and helmets during these drills. However, they would not tackle each other during other drills.

The kids would play flag football instead. This way, they would still learn how to play football at full speed, but would not endure the physical punishment of the game. It also means that kids will be able to tackle properly when they reach the high school level.

Football is a very dangerous sport that does not have to affect our nation’s youth. It is much smarter to have your kids play flag football rather than tackle football at a young age. And remember, an estimated .0005 percent of Peewee football players make it to the NFL. So don’t let your kid ruin their brain and their future for no reason.