Half of Americans Say Kids Shouldn’t Play This Sport, According to Study
While it’s one of America’s favorite sports to watch, many parents don’t want their kids playing the game.
The spring sports season is in full swing for kids all over the country, but there is one sport that many parents think their young athletes should stay away from. It’s estimated that over 17 million people tune in to watch NFL Football games, but many parents say tackle football is one sport kids shouldn’t play.
According to data released from the National Sports and Society Survey, over 4,000 adults were surveyed and when asked "Tackle football is appropriate for kids to play," 50% of respondents disagreed with the statement. While 45% did agree with the statement, the remaining 5% said they were uncertain.
"We found that tackle football for kids has become a contentious issue in the United States," said Mariah Warner, lead author of the study. "Football may still be very popular overall, but many people don’t think it is appropriate for kids, most likely because of safety issues."
The survey did not ask participants to explain their answers, but organizers of the survey point to the growing concern over CTE, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, which is brain degeneration caused by repeated head traumas, such as concussions. Experts say there is no magic number associated with CTE that determines if a person will suffer the devastating side effects. However, with a number of professional football players and their families reporting occurrences of CTE after years playing tackle football, parents are taking note.
A CDC study published in Sports Health reports youth tackle football athletes between the ages of 6 to 14 sustained 15 times more head impacts than flag football athletes. Additionally, tackle football players sustained 23 times more high-magnitude head impact — hard head impact — during practice and games.
"We are learning more all the time about how the earlier in life that kids get head injuries, the more serious the health effects," Warner said. "That may be one reason why so many Americans are wary about kids playing tackle football."
The study also noted a 20% decline in tackle football participation among children ages 6 to 12 from 2008 to 2018. Also, the answers from participants varied based on where they lived. Researchers said people who lived in rural areas were more supportive of kids playing tackle football over people who live in the suburbs. Also those living in the Midwest and the South answered they strongly endorsed kids playing tackle football at a rate of 27% to 39% higher compared to those from adults living in the West.
"Being immersed in football cultures — whether it is your family, your friends, your community — played a major role in your beliefs about kids and football," says Chris Knoester, another lead researcher of the study.
What can parents do? According to the CDC, parents, can take these steps to keep kids protected from head injuries when playing sports:
- Look for non-contact sports options, such as flag and touch football.
- Read about concussion safety and talk to their child about concussion.
- Make sure their child’s sports team has a concussion safety policy.
- Choose a sports program that enforces rules for safety and avoids drills and plays that increase the risk for head impacts.
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