It’s Reckless for Parents to Allow Their Kids to Play Football

Playing football can kill you.

Even the NFL, whose top health and safety officer acknowledged the link earlier this year between football and CTE, no longer denies this. With that knowledge in mind, parents who allow their children to play the sport before high school are negligent and reckless.

The latest harrowing football tale revolves around former fullback Kevin Turner, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2010 and passed away in March at 46 years old. The end of Turner’s life was torture. He wasn’t able to talk in his final days, which he spent laying in bed and getting fed through a tube. There’s no doubt football was to blame for his miserable existence. But now we know the full extent.

Last week, a Boston University researcher announced Turner had died of CTE, not ALS. Dr. Ann McKee, who serves as the director of the school’s renowned CTE center, says Turner’s brain trauma is what triggered the fatal motor neuron disease. “In Kevin’s case, it’s as close to a smoking gun as you can get because of the extreme and very particular involvement of his motor system with CTE,” she said, via the Boston Globe“It was very obvious that it was not something you see in the most common form of ALS.’”

McKee has examined the brains of 95 deceased football players over the years, and CTE has been found in 91 of them. Though much of the blame for the deadly neurological disorder is placed on concussions, research shows it goes far deeper than that. There’s a direct correlation between the number of times a person is hit in the head and his or her chances of developing CTE. When I spoke to prominent player safety advocate Chris Nowinski earlier this year, he said one of the solutions to assuaging football’s brain trauma crisis is to ban the sport until the high school level.

“Only five percent of [high school players] go on to play in college and only a small percentage of those go on to play professionally,” he said. “Then, very few football players in this country would develop CTE. Four years of exposure is not going to be enough to start CTE in most people.”

Though the NFL has invested tens of millions of dollars into making youth football safer, the sincerity of its efforts have been questioned. In July, the New York Times reported Heads Up Football, a program that teaches safe tackling procedures to coaches and players, hasn’t reduced injuries –– despite the league’s words to the contrary. The NFL previously claimed the initiative decreased the number of injuries by 76 percent and concussions by roughly 30 percent.

These lies continue a long trend of the NFL obfuscating the truth about head injuries. For years, the league tried to discredit Dr. Bennett Omalu, who was the first neurologist to discover CTE in the brain of a deceased NFL player, former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Mike Webster.

Despite the NFL’s continued propaganda, a number of prominent public figures –– ranging from President Barack Obama to Mike Ditka –– have said they wouldn’t allow their kids to play football. With all of the information we have at our disposal, that’s the only responsible choice.

Athletes who get paid millions of dollars to play football professionally are making a conscious decision and are well-compensated for their work. But that’s not the case for young kids who are banging their heads around before they even develop any upper-body strength. Parents who put their kids in harm’s way can be charged with child endangerment. There are few things more dangerous than allowing children to play football before they reach their teenage years.

To Top