For the Love of the Game: an interview with my son about the dangers of footballDawn Meehan
Last week I read an article about a 16-year-old boy who died after sustaining injuries that resulted from a helmet to helmet collision during a football game. Of course I felt horrible for the boy’s family. And as the mom of sons who play football, I feel scared for my own boys’ safety. I mean, I know that injuries can occur in any sport. Heck, injuries can occur outside of sports too. But catastrophic head injuries are much more prevalent in football than in any other sport. Oftentimes, head injuries that don’t seem serious at the time cause problems down the line when repeated head trauma has a cumulative affect on the player. I asked my 15-year-old freshman what he thought about football and the risks involved with playing.
DAWN: What do you think of when you hear about a kid your age who has a helmet-to-helmet injury in a football game and ends up dying from it?
JACKSON: I think that that’s just a way of life. Stuff like that happens all the time.
DAWN: Have you seen any injuries during games or practices?
JACKSON: I have seen plenty of injuries during practices and games and it doesn’t faze me one bit. I specifically remember one practice when one of my teammates broke his arm to where his elbow was sticking out and he needed to be rushed to the hospital.
DAWN: Are you scared of being hurt? Does it make you want to change sports and participate in something less dangerous?
JACKSON: I am never really thinking that I’ll get hurt. The way I see it, it’s either hit or be hit, and if I do that I won’t be the one getting hurt. I keep my head up, pay attention, and do what the coaches have taught me to do.
DAWN: Why do you risk injury to play the game? What do you get out of it?
JACKSON: I risk the injuries of this game because I just love to play football and everything about it. Football teaches so many life lessons such as teamwork, leadership, and discipline, and that’s why I love it.
DAWN: Given the chance, will you play football again next year?
JACKSON: If I got a chance to play football next year, I would sign up without missing a beat, I honestly love everything about football.
DAWN: 500,000 football injuries occur each year, 2 times as many as any other sport. 60-70 concussions occur for every 1000 games/practices. No one would disagree that contact sports like football are dangerous. What if your mom refuses to let you play because she’s worried about injuries?
JACKSON: I’d try to find a way to play. Football is really important to me. I’d play touch football with some friends in the backyard at least if I couldn’t play anything else.
DAWN: What if your best friend was seriously injured? What if he had a bad concussion? Would that make you stop and think twice about playing?
JACKSON: If my best friend got injured, I’d definitely think twice about it, but I’d still play.
I want to let my son play. He loves the game and he’s good at it. It gives him an acceptable venue to expend his energy and aggression. He feels good about himself when he plays and it forces him to keep his grades up in order to play. But I have to admit, the fear of brain injury does give me pause. I wonder what my chances are of talking him into a less dangerous sport. Then I can move on to my daughter who is a flyer on her cheerleading team. Oy, talk about being a nervous wreck while watching your child compete . . .
What do you think? Should you let your child play the sport they love and remember that injuries can happen anywhere; there’s no reason to worry about what might happen? Or do you put your foot down and tell them to pick a less dangerous sport?
*****Edited to add***** I’ve had so many people on Facebook state that they would never take a chance and let their child play football, that the risks aren’t worth it, that a parent needs to learn how to say “no” to their child. I hear you and understand that everyone is, of course, entitled to their opinion. But let me say this – my son Jackson has played football for many years and has never been hurt. However, while riding his bike, the tire skidded on some gravel causing an injury that required an ER visit, an overnight hospital stay, and later, surgery to repair the hernia that the injury caused. My daughter Savannah has had 2 knee surgeries and her knee will never be quite right. It had nothing to do with sports. I guess I prefer to let my kids play the sports about which they’re passionate and leave the worrying to things I can control. I can’t control when/how my kids may get injured some day and I refuse to keep them in a bubble in an effort to protect them from every fictitious scenario I can dream up.
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