Football has always been a popular American sport among all ages. As we start to learn more about the safety hazards of football, it brings up the question; Should kids under the age of 14 be allowed to play tackle football?
There has been a lot of concern lately over the violence of the game, and what we can do as civilians to protect our youth and young teens.
The NFL recently stated that kids under the age of 12 are not recommended to play tackle football due to recent studies that kids who have repeated head trauma under the age of 12 are more likely to develop Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. (CTE)
CTE doesn’t have to come from concussions, just repeated blows to the head. In fact, some people who had CTE never reported a concussion a single day in their life.
Ann McKee is a director of the Boston University CTE Center in Massachusetts. She stated that kids who play football 14 years of age or younger are more likely to develop CTE than someone who started playing football later in high school due to their still-developing brains.
Ann still wants kids to play sports, but she wants kids to be safe and be cautious knowing that contact sports come with risks. As for kids playing tackle football under the age of 14, she says no, due to the risk of a child getting serious head injuries and affecting them later on in life.
Current CD football player Booth “Bo” Heshler has seen the way the CD football handles concussions.
Even though he has never had a concussion, he has seen the training staff in action and stated that “The coaches and trainers both do a good job with handling concussions, from not allowing full contact everyday at practice to the concussion protocol and computer testing the school issues to all its sports participants.”
Bo also stated that on the youth level he sees that “less parents are allowing their kids to play football at that level and are making them wait until Freshman football to start for concern over their son’s health.”
Brendan Schaffner, a CD student, played football his entire childhood but suffered multiple concussions (five) and therefore had to forgo playing his favorite sport for his own safety. Doctors said later on in life there is a chance he could develop CTE due to the damage done to his brain during adolescence.
He stated that like Bo, he has “seen less parents allow their kids to play youth football due to the dangers involved.”
Most people interviewed agreed that when they attend little league football games now, each team might only have 14 or 15 players on each team and 11 players are needed on the field at all times.
Of course football isn’t the only sport where head injuries are common. Sports like wrestling, soccer and ice hockey are just a few of the other sports where researchers have found traces of CTE players’ brains too. Football is just more common due to the number of Americans that play it compared to all three of those alternative sports combined, and how violent it is compared to the other sports.
As we learn more about the potential dangers of football or any other contact sport in general, it’s best to know that we all should strive to keep our kids and peers safe.
However, at the same time, if youth athletes are dedicated to their sport, we should consider their own judgement and let them make a decision with adult advice.