Should young kids be allowed to play football?

In a recent interview with ESPN, LeBron James explained his family’s rationale behind not allowing his children to play football until high school. James explained that his children are currently involved in a multitude of sports, but not football. The risks associated with playing football are so great that James believes his children should be mature before they can assess whether or not to play.

Few could argue with not allowing your child to become involved in a sport that is plagued with a myriad of injures like dislocations, concussions and even post football ailments like Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), and Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig disease, that can affect someone for the rest of his or her lives.

Nationally, the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 30 million children participate in some kind of sporting activity. Of those 30 million children, the CDC states that 3.5 million injuries occur among them. Football ranks as the highest injury laden sport—with almost 215,000 children ages 5 to 14 treated in hospital emergency rooms for football-related injuries and nearly 10,000 of those hospitalized as a result of their injuries. Basketball and soccer have 200,000 and 88,000 injures respectively.

In a football culture where displaying strength is more important than protecting oneself, one can assume that the number of football injuries is even higher than the CDC reports.

Dr. J. Scott Delaney, of the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, conducted a recent study that found 20 percent of 469 university athletes, examined over a 12-month period, suggest that they had concussion-like symptoms. Of the 20 percent of athletes, however, 80 percent continued playing without medical attention.

Athletes playing through injury is habitually destructive behavior. Due to the superhuman mentality that many athletes assume, they ignore injury or make themselves more prone to it due to their ignorance of practice and improper football mechanics. This mentality is why James’ decision to ban football until his children are capable of understanding and accepting the realities of the sport should be a stance that all families take.

Perhaps families have started to take this attitude because Pop Warner football, the largest youth league in the United States, has seen a 9.5 percent drop in player, according to ESPN.

The statistics presented here, as well as the thousands readily available through research, would scare most parents away. However, the fact is that for some families, sports are their only hope.

Football not only takes their children away from outside influences, but it also gives poor families a chance to put their child through college or gives them a chance to play professionally. The risks of injury are sacrifices that some families take hoping to make a better life for their children, as well as themselves.

According to the CDC, more than half of all sports injuries in children are preventable. Injury prevention in football is a matter of educating children at a young age and having them practice the art of tackling, running and simply playing safe and smart.

James ended the discussion of his decision to ban football for his children by concluding that when it comes to football, it is all about safety, and as a parent he intends to protect his kids. James’ comments should serve as a message for parents to protect their children and for athletes to protect themselves by playing and training smart.