I will never let my sons play high school football

PORTLAND, MAINE -- 11/22/14 -- A Windham High School player is tackled during the Maine Class A Football Championship game in Portland on Saturday. Thornton went on to beat Windham. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Troy R. Bennett | BDN

High school sports offer a world of fantastic opportunities for kids to learn the finer points of sportsmanship, responsibility, working collaboratively, and problem-solving with peers not to mention the glory of athleticism and the health benefits of being physically fit. These skills are vital for becoming responsible adults. But football, in particular, is far too dangerous for teens to be playing and that is why I will never let my sons play it.

Concussions and injury

“High school football accounts for 47 percent of all reported sports concussions, with 33 percent of concussions occurring during practice.” That is 47% of more than 3.8 million sports-related concussions in 2012 alone. The only thing more frightening than that number is the fact that the impact that a head injury can have on a developing brain can be permanent. Not only does a concussion affect short-term memory, which a student needs in order to be on top of his academics, but it turns out that teenagers in particular are more vulnerable to the lasting effects of concussions than children or adults due to the way brains naturally develop.

As a parent, that risk simply isn’t worth it.

If leaders in the sport of football were willing to acknowledge that the equipment they use to keep players safe is inadequate and then make strong efforts to implement effective improvement then I would change my mind. But football is a highly dangerous sport that kills 12 high school aged kids a year and leaves countless others suffering from lasting brain injuries.

These serious injuries are not limited to high school, in fact, at UMaine student-athletes are being “medically retired” due to concussions. Why would I ever allow my child play to play in a sport that could potentially kill or seriously injure him to the extent that he must be “retired” by his early 20’s? That is insane.

Concussions aren’t the only injuries that high school football players are at high risk to suffer from. It is not unheard of for these student-athletes to fall victim to several other serious and sometimes fatal health conditions and injuries that result in more than 2 million high school sports-related injuries nationally, 500,000 of which require trips to the ER every year, and at the very top of that list is high school football. The four most reported injuries and serious health problems that are associated with high school football include:

I completely understand that all sports come with serious risks of injury, but football, in particular, carries the most risk. Teenagers’ brains are simply not finished developing and tend to go through growth spurts making any kind of injury potentially devastating on cognitive functions or deadly. Why risk that?

Why risk that?

As a mom, my primary job in this world is to protect my kids. And while I fully get that I can’t bubble wrap them and keep all dangers away from them (they do have to learn from a bump or thud here and there after all) I can at least weigh serious risks and use common sense to determine that when a sport is as dangerous to a teen as football is that I’d be about as safe giving my three-year-old a set of matches and hoping for the best.