At MMQB, Gary Gramling writes:
I’m hearing a lot of “Then would you let your kids play soccer?” arguments worked into the “Concussion” discussion.
The short answer is: Yes, of course I would let my kids play soccer. I wrote last week (in a segment unofficially titled “Parenting Advice from an Inadequate Dad”) that my kids will not play tackle football any earlier than junior year of high school. Until then, flag football, soccer and wrestling.
Soccer has gotten some heat as the second-leading cause of head injuries among high school girls sports. The concussion rate in boys high school soccer (and I was concussed twice over three years of varsity soccer) is less than half of what it is in football.
When it comes to my kids, I’m especially concerned with the dangers of concussions at the youth level of sports, a critical time for brain development. In football, there’s no denying that heads are going to slam into things, especially with the lack of coordination and body control in young athletes.
Logically, there are going to be far fewer concussions in youth soccer. The game just isn’t played in the air very often, for a few reasons. First, it’s much harder for young players to get any force or accuracy behind a header. Second, it’s even harder to serve a ball properly for a worthwhile header. And third (and this is more of an observation from decades of playing, coaching and officiating youth soccer), kids don’t want to head the ball, because it hurts. It’s difficult to judge a ball in the air, and it especially hurts if you say, misjudge a keeper’s punt and wind up taking one in the face.
A lot of folks are upset with the NFL over the handling of brain trauma a generation ago, but make no mistake: Football isn’t going anywhere. Even if kids move away from tackle football, they’ll play flag and touch. They’ll play Madden and they’ll play fantasy football. And they’ll continue to watch the NFL and college football, because it’s the greatest spectator sport on earth.
I don’t think the sport is going away, but I do think fewer kids are going to play tackle football as more parents realize the permanent damage that is done to their young brains. As the number of potential players drops, there will be some attrition, but the pool won’t be depleted enough to destroy America’s most popular sport anytime soon.
That said, I’m glad my daughter opted to become a varsity tennis player in high school.
By the way, even though it’s clear that the league lied to its players and put their futures in jeopardy, I admit that I haven’t stopped watching the NFL — and that won’t change after the Rams leave town, either. And speaking of that, while we’re at MMQB, take a look at Robert Klemko’s road trip through the three cities at risk of losing their NFL franchises: St. Louis, Oakland, and San Diego.
Updated 6:41pm…The way the CBS crew (including announcers Tom McCarthy and Adam Archuleta) is highlighting players getting hard hits to the head in the Rams-49ers game is disgusting. Their comments echo almost exactly a scene in “Concussion” where Dr. Bennet Omalu winces while watching players getting their brains scrambled as broadcasters shout “He was jacked up!!” McCarthy and Archulta making it seem like a good thing — in a meaningless Week 17 game between two loser teams who just want to go home in one piece and avoid suffering CTE in the future — is irresponsible.