Fathers Don't Let Your Children Grow Up To Be Football Players

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By John Hubbuch

The buzz surrounding Sunday's Super Bowl is beginning to build. That's why it struck me as a bit discordant when our First Father  President Obama said he was not sure if he had a son he would want him to play football.

 When the President of this football crazy nation says that, you know there's a problem. The problem of course is a number of recent studies have concluded that smashing your helmeted head into another helmeted head is not good for your brain. Doing it over and over for years is actually really bad. So bad that as you age,  you increase your chances of losing your memory and sanity. Your life span appreciably diminishes.                                 

Predictably a number of football players and ex-players now broadcasters have said that  if they had it to do over they would play football,  and have encouraged their children to follow in their large-cleated footsteps. I wonder if they will say the same thing in 30 years when some of them are contemplating suicide or are being fed by their spouse who they do not recognize.                  

But they are grown men, and get to decide what they do with their lives. Their children are another matter. It seems cruel and unfair to put  children at what appears to be significant risk of permanent injury and early death. Parents are supposed to protect children from danger, not increase the exposure. That's why parents discourage children from getting into  a stranger's car even though most times nothing bad would happen to them.                       

And there are lots of  other sports to teach the kids teamwork, fair play and dealing with victory and defeat. Just pick  one where you don't get your head bashed in.

Now the NFL has a real problem here. They need lots of little kids playing football so that they can winnow down to the fast behemoths that we cheer to see collide on Sunday. I'm as big a fan as any. but I have to ask myself at what human price my entertainment is worth. I liked cheering for Junior Seau, but I'm not sure  if it was worth his recent suicide. Same for Bear Dave Duerson.  

We are just seeing the tip of the iceberg. This maiming for entertainment is only going to get worse. I am reminded of the Romans.  Soldier Field has become our Roman Colosseum. The citizenry in both venues gather for  bloody sport.  At least the football players don't die right away.

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Reader Comments

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Posted: February 1st, 2013 2:30 PM

Cont... but a lot of the sports injuries I see in contact sports come from disfunctional culture of coaching and macho attitude, much of which can be avoided... so a lot of the "don't be a wuss" attitude comes from old school macho BS upbringings, and is not smart. Courage can be built in much healthier ways, but there are cultures in some sports where players are expected to donate their bodies at any expense, and it's stupid. Football and boxing happen to be two of them.


Posted: February 1st, 2013 2:25 PM

Uncommon, I'm all for kids being kids, and getting cuts and scrapes are a part of that, but there comes times where you here coaches or friends etc... shout stuff like "suck it up and be a man", or "stop being such a wuss" during times when thoughtful actions are needed... a lot of the times it puts kids in undue risk and is just macho BS. I'm a fight, I punch, kick, throw and submit people, and get punched, kicked, thrown and submitted on a regular basis. I understand what "contact" is cont...


Posted: February 1st, 2013 2:15 PM

cont... do much really protecting... as shown by the amounts of injuries that do occur even when padded. It's not about being over protective, it's about understanding what and the amount of risk that seems acceptable to one self. There is a certain amount of risk of crime living in Oak Park, but people feel fine living here with kids taking that risk. I doubt they'd be willing to take the risk of living in Austin next door. The risk football brings is too much for me, wrestling isn't.


Posted: February 1st, 2013 2:09 PM

Brian, I don't know much about diving, so I can't really comment, but it's all about the varying levels of risk that one is comfortable with allowing one's kids to take. There are always chances of injury in sports and life, especially contact sports, but I would feel more comfortable with my kid playing a sport where the chances of serious injury are much less, than a sport where concussions are all too common. The thing with football is, the helmets and padding don't actually cont...

Sports Dad  

Posted: February 1st, 2013 1:17 PM

@Question that's really the big issue. It's not the short-term trauma that is leading to lawsuits, but the fact that, yes, HS football players with repeated concussions are having memory loss, depression and dementia.


Posted: February 1st, 2013 1:05 PM

@Sports Dad interesting study, although you are right, the risk of brain injury in incredibly low. You're more likely to get struck by lightning during your lifetime. my only concern about football would be the long term impact. we've obviously seen the CTE cases for NFL players, but is the long term mental risk particularly great for high school players?

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: February 1st, 2013 12:37 PM

Sports Dad, I guess. Although, I'll have to admit there is something about seeing a loud mouth wide receiver getting knocked back into last week and him totally not expecting it. Somethings are just part of the game.

Sports Dad  

Posted: February 1st, 2013 12:29 PM

That's like asking if people go to watch hockey for passing or if people are in the stands for the checking and the fights. lol

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: February 1st, 2013 12:18 PM

I guess the question with football is if tackling is really necessary to the integrity of the sport or just some sort of macho fascination with hitting the snot out of someone? Would say flag football be just as exciting? Isn't rugby similar in terms of roughness, yet none of the safety equipment is needed?

Sports Dad  

Posted: February 1st, 2013 11:55 AM

That should be "stats" sorry. BTW defensive backs have the worst injury rate and 40% of that is from tackling--usually with improper technique (head down, helmet to helmet, etc).

Sports Dad  

Posted: February 1st, 2013 11:52 AM

@Question Brain injury rates went down in the 1970's among HS players & are still fairly low per 100,000 players. But the rate is currently the highest since states have been collected in the 1980's, on the rise due to style of play, and worst for defense. There's a yearly study you can check out from the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research.

Real List  

Posted: February 1st, 2013 11:43 AM

I sustained a severe head injury when I opened my property tax bill.


Posted: February 1st, 2013 11:33 AM

Do the studies show a huge risk for those who just play football at say, the high school level? Or is it mainly for NFL level players?

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: February 1st, 2013 11:08 AM

Pro sports are brutal, especially football. But you know what, that is why it is called PRO sports and why so few people are able to compete at that level and they make a bazillion dollars. Most higher level athletes have some kind of lingering effects in their later years whether it is shot knees, arthritis, brain injuries, etc. It just is what it is... I don't have full mobility of a wrist from a particularly hard cycling crash 20 years ago but I cherish those years competing.

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: February 1st, 2013 10:57 AM

Sports Dad, safety should be a priority, but at some point you just have to accept that there are risks with everything. Part of growing up is learnng how to manage risks and making mistakes to teach you lesson. sometimes those lessons are painful... but they are a fact of life. I'd say any kid who hasn't scraped a knee, cracked a tooth, or has some other battle scars probably had a crappy childhood.

Sports Dad  

Posted: February 1st, 2013 10:18 AM

So true! And there's definitely a backlash against it, if you've ever heard of Free Range Parenting...sort of the reverse of helicopter types. But I also think there is a certain about of risk-management involved. It's also a different world. I want my kids to get skinned knees, not cracked skulls. lol

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: February 1st, 2013 10:08 AM

We are turning our kids into a bunch of wussies. Growing up I played with BB guns. Got in fist fights. Picked on by bullies. Rode a bike and skateboard with no helmet. Climbed trees. Played dodgeball (oh, the horror!). Played football... with no helmet! Scrapes, bruises, broken bones, etc are part of growing up. Yes, some sports are more dangerous than others. what's the saying? If it can't kill you, it ain't a sport?

Sports Dad  

Posted: February 1st, 2013 9:06 AM

Brian, I think a better comparison is baseball where there is a trend towards facemasks on batting helmets, soft baseballs, not allowing certain bats, etc. I think these are ridiculous. But compare to football where you cannot possibly play the sport safely without that helmet. There is a balance between safety getting over the top and a lack of safety being built into the sport. When I was younger we pole vaulted without helmets...today, I think that was probably reckless.

Briaqn Slowak from Oak Park  

Posted: February 1st, 2013 8:50 AM

Fighter:Yes, far less of a chance of a brain injury,however the risk is still there. Shouldnt we be protecting all the children all the time from any chance of a head injury? Why are some children worth more than others?Wouldnt a helmet on the head of the platform diver who struck his head on the platform be worth the precaution?Or should platform diving be abolished because of the chance of a head injury or because there is a history of head injury in platform diving?

Sports Dad  

Posted: February 1st, 2013 6:05 AM

Good points, Fighter. I'm anti-football as a father. But mostly because of how many other better sports there are out there...even contact...that ask more of the athlete & don't involve such traumatic head injury risks. Part of the problem with football isn't the sport itself, but the way it is coached esp. at the lower levels where younger kids don't get a focus on safety or proper techniques, sportsmanship, and fitness.


Posted: January 31st, 2013 8:54 PM

Brian, if you want to compare combat sports to football, I'd agree with categorizing boxing with similar risks, as repeated head trauma is a reality, but the likely hood of long lasting injury, especially serious injury to the brain is far less with wrestling, karate, Judo, BJJ and even mixed martial arts.

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: January 31st, 2013 6:38 PM

I find it strange that so many helmeted sports are excluded from this discussion. Bronco and bull riding, rock climbing,motorcycle racing,motocross,and trick riding,snow mobile racing,motocross and trick riding and bicycle riding. Non helmeted contact sports like boxing,wrestling and karate are also exempt.Why the focus on on football?. Shouldnt platform diving be a helmeted sport? Horrible footage of that diver hitting his head on the platfom.

A Football Mom  

Posted: January 31st, 2013 5:23 PM

My boys play football and have sustained no injuries. They were playing with their friends today in a church basement and one of them severely injured his knee. One of them had their tooth knocked out chasing bubbles at a 3 yr old birthday party. Their friends have sustained concussions and broken arms on the playground. I am going to have them avoid church basements, bubbles, parties, and playgrounds from now on. Go Ravens!

A Football Dad  

Posted: January 31st, 2013 3:08 PM

I like football. My son plays HS football & another sport as well. Yes, football is dangerous, so is hockey, baseball & skiing. The problem isn't playing the sport as intended, but not stopping when a doctor says it's time should injury occur. With John's line of thinking, who would join the police, armed forces, or firefighters because of potential danger? The State & NFL instituted new concussion protocols to protect players from further injury when followed. More needed change is coming.

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