Inujury on the football fieldLooking at his tiny head now, his little eyes all lit up when they see me holding a 'baba' of milk for him, it's not all that hard for me to admit to myself that I don't want Henry to play football.
Soccer? Sure! Let's go! I'll coach, buddy! … and I don't even know the damn rules.
Baseball? You better believe it! My favorite game! Who wants a new mitt? Who wants to collect baseball cards with his old man?!
Tennis? Fine. Basketball? Absolutely. Golf? Yessir. Swimming? You know it. Dirt track racing? Yeehaw! Competitive bass fishing? Let's go get 'em!
Eh. I don't know.
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Does that make me sound like a wussy?
I mean, I like football enough. I grew up in a football house and by the time I was eight, I was already a veteran of cold November afternoons, sitting in the whirling frozen winds of Veteran's Stadium, watching our beloved Philadelphia Eagles with my Pop-Pop. But, now that I'm a dad, I just can't see football being the game for kids that it once was. Or, at least, for my kids.
For one thing, with each passing year there is more and more scientific proof that the game is still punishing people long after their playing days are over. Last week, one of the greatest linebackers of his time, Junior Seau, became what this article says is the 12th NFL suicide in 25 years. Now, I know, of course, that there is absolutely no proof (yet) that Seau's tragic end had anything to do with his days as a player.
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But, still - there have been a plethora of cases and studies in the past few years that seem to indicate that there is grave concern among former footballers and their families, (not to mention researchers, lawyers, physicians, and lawmakers) that common concussions, once thought to be just another part of the game, are now being linked to serious cases of "chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a neurodegenerative disease that results in Alzheimer's-like symptoms, including memory loss and mood swings," according to an article out last week on CNN.com.
More than 1500 former NFL players have joined a lawsuit against the league claiming that the deadly correlation between concussions and more severe brain damage was never made known to them.
"So what?" you ask. "What does any of this have to do with my kid playing football?"
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Well, to be honest: a whole helluva lot. If full-grown NFL players are beginning to understand the damage that was done to their brains and bodies during their playing days, then who or what is it going to take to come to the honest conclusion that anything rattling those boulder-sized heads around in a bad way is probably going to be just as bad, if not much worse, when it affects a young child's brain?
According to a PBS Frontline piece that takes a look at head injuries among younger football players, there are at least 60,000 concussions during high school football games each year in the US. What's worse, the report adds, is that "researchers' neurological tests are showing that young players who never reported symptoms of a concussion, but had taken sub-concussive hits, have suffered significant damage to their memories. As the season wore on, these players performed increasingly worse on cognitive tests."
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