Many parents, especially moms (not to play into heteronormativity or gender roles), spend their whole lives protecting and guiding their children from danger. Undoubtedly, there comes a point in every parent’s life when your child participates in something you think is dangerous or harmful for their well-being and future. Often parents try to counteract this danger and rebellion by implementing structure and constructive activities. For many young boys and girls this activity is organized sports. Sports can be one way to implement that structure, and has long been championed in highly successful adults. Playing sports helps you stay in shape, teaches you how to organize your time, boosts friendships, and builds relationships with your peers and adults. However, what happens when sports turn out to be the real thing that is putting your child at risk?
By danger I do not mean the random scratch or cut or even broken bone. This is a danger which has much longer lasting effects on the remainder of your child’s future life and happiness. This danger is called CTE. CTE is progressive degenerative disease of the brain that is found in athletes who sustain many hits to the head. CTE has been linked to many boxers in the past, but in recent years there has been a large finding in football players. These findings of CTE in past pro-football players have caused a discussion on the ethics of football as well as the responsibility of the NFL in taking care of their players. Gladwell compares the NFL to dog fighting; arguing that the manipulation of the dogs for power and money is similar to the way the NFL treats and sees their players (Gladwell 2009). On the days leading up to the 2013 Super Bowl President Obama said he “”I’m a big football fan, but I have to tell you, if I had a son, I’d have to think long and hard before I let him play football.” If one of the most powerful men in the country is questioning the safety of football, it seems logical that many other Americans are contemplating the dilemmas as well.
As responsible adults what are you to do? Are you to stop your child from engaging in an otherwise positive experience, which will allow them to gain important life skills? At this point, I do not think I or anyone can tell you or your child they cannot play football. I am not arguing that no one should play football or other hard hitting sports; however as a community and a nation we must be aware.
It is essential that at this point we continue educating and creating awareness. This includes continuing the awareness and promoting proper care of concussion symptoms. This proper care of concussions is often muddled by the pressure of preforming and pleasing your coach, team, and support network.
“That’s football. You’re told either that you’re hurt or that you’re injured. There is no middle ground. If you are hurt, you can play. If you are injured, you can’t, and the line is whether you can walk and if you can put on a helmet and pads” (Gladwell 2009)
It is important to keep in mind that playing with concussions is extremely dangerous for the safety of the athlete. “At least 50 high school or younger football players in more than 20 states since 1997 have been killed or have sustained serious head injuries on the field,” according to research by The New York Times. These deaths may have been prevented if there was more education and concern for athletes who may have sustained a concussion.
The education about CTE and concussions must start with Pee-Wee Football coaches talking to parents and expressing the possible concerns. This education should not stop after Pee-Wee; it must be reinforced throughout an athlete’s career, including professional leagues. I cannot emphasize the importance of education and awareness in these families, not to establish fear but more to diminish ignorance. Once again I understand and support the idea that the sports a kid plays is a personal decision, but awareness about the real danger of football and all hard hitting head sports must be widespread and present.