Things got testy at the Massachusetts’ State House in Boston yesterday as a public hearing was held on a possible state bill that would ban tackle football in the state before the 8th grade. Backers of the bill. . . the first of its kind in the United States. . . believe that recent research warrants the move. Opponents believe that parents should maintain the right to decide whether or not their kids are allowed to play tackle football at ages younger than 14.
This is a tough one for me. I love the game. I love watching the game. The game was a part of our family. We made the decision to delay youth football participation until 8th grade for a reason other than what is known now about concussions, sub-concussive blows, and head injuries. Our decision was based on the fact that in our community, our observation was that the youth football system was not a healthy place for character-building. Too much yelling and not enough encouragement. Sure, we got push back from a son who wanted to play at an earlier age. But, I’m now even more glad we made that decision based on the growing body of research that’s coming out from the Concussion Legacy Foundation. It’s compelling and increasingly convincing.
This leaves me wondering about a game I love to watch. My own conflicted personal feelings most likely reflect what a growing number of others are feeling as well: Do we overlook the research so that we can continue to indulge our obsession with and love of football? Or, do we swing in the direction of protecting our kids and providing for their well-being. . . which in the end is an act of love as well? And, for those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ, how does our responsibility to steward the health and well-being of our kids play into all of this?
I’ve been watching this unfolding story for several years now. Two weeks ago, the folks at the Concussion Legacy Foundation released a controversial 30-second PSA that’s gotten loads of pushback. . .
I don’t think their message is off-base at all. The CLF is serving us well by letting us know that kids who start playing football at age 5 are 5 to 10 times more likely to get the brain disease Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy than those who wait to start playing at age 14. And what we need to be thinking about as well is what happens to kids who wait until the age of 14 as they suffer repeated blows to the head. . . and they will. . . while playing football.
Parents, you need to follow this story. Youth workers, you need to relay this story to the parents you serve. All of us need to see every minute, every square inch, and every nook and cranny of life as the arena for the worship of God. How can we best worship God based on what we are learning?
Yesterday we released an episode of our Youth Culture Matters podcast on this very issue. In the episode we chat with Tyler Maland from the Concussion Legacy Foundation, along with high school athletic trainer Sheila Mueller. For those of us who love football it’s a difficult discussion. However, it’s one we need to have. I’ve posted the podcast below. And, don’t forget to visit the page for this episode on our CPYU site to access links to all the resources and research that’s mentioned in the episode.