With the overwhelming attention being paid to the growing number of lawsuits being filed by former players against the National Football League – in combination with the concussions being suffered by current players – many people have been asking whether or not it is in the best interest of health and child development for children to be taking part in full contact sports at young ages. Many current and former professional football players, including Tom Brady and Kurt Warner, have spoken out about whether or not they would let their sons and even daughters follow in their footsteps by playing physical sports, and the response has been mostly split.
Now lawmakers are weighing in on the threat to children and teenagers, as advancements in science and technology are allowing scientists and researchers to understand traumatic brain injuries like never before. Representative Betty McCollum of Minnesota recently wrote an editorial for The Hill’s Congress Blog, in which she calls for greater safety and general consideration in youth sports, including football, hockey, and soccer. McCollum cites advancements in technology being used in the U.S. Military as a cause for parental concern.
“We are already learning a lot about traumatic brain injuries from our returning Afghanistan and Iraq veterans. An estimated 40,000 men and women veterans have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries from multiple concussions in combat. While the situations are vastly different, some of the consequences of repeated head injuries sustained in combat can be similar to those experienced by some athletes.”
McCollum also points out that in 2009, there were more than 446,000 sports-related head injuries reported in U.S. emergency rooms. As more children throughout the country are enrolled in team and individual sports programs and leagues, that number is increasing significantly. Children under the age of 10 are being subject to injuries that could potentially harm their brains for life. While older children and teenagers may be stronger and more developed, they are still just as susceptible to life-altering and threatening brain injuries that could otherwise be prevented.
Ultimately, McCollum writes, youth and recreation leagues need to emulate the decisions of the national Pop Warner football leadership, as officials have vowed to limit the contact allowed in leagues throughout the country. Between these restrictions and general health and safety knowledge, coaches and parents could help provide safer sports leagues for child athletes, substantially reducing that striking emergency room statistic.