So, I never played contact sports as a kid. I was never a good skater, and in Canada that meant I wasn’t going to be playing hockey. My father played hockey, recreationally, while I was growing up, and if I’d expressed any interest in it I’m sure he would have signed the forms without a second thought.
I attended a high school without a football field, so football was never an option for me either, even if I had been built like a linebacker instead of like a Kenyan distance runner. But again, with a father who had played football in high school I’m sure the necessary forms would have been signed.
I think parents were probably more cavalier about contact sports twenty years ago. But things are changing, and it has everything to do with the print concussion stories are getting.
According to a recent CDC study making the rounds, the number of kids going to the ER for concussion symptoms is up 60% over the last decade. This may indicate more injuries overall, or it may indicate a greater awareness of the symptoms of head injuries: maybe parents and coaches are more cautious now, so they are sending kids to the hospital for events that they wouldn’t have ten years ago.
I admit that I worry about my kids participating in sports with such reputations for concussion and brain injury as football and hockey. I am a hockey fan, and seeing Sidney Crosby, arguably the best hockey player in the world, unable to play his sport for the last ten months because of a concussion has been jarring. Likewise, football fans are constantly being told about one head injury after another: Jahvid Best is the latest player to be sidelined because of a concussion.
What is it all for? Contact sports are part of our culture, but can or should they be phased out? Sure, the players may love the sport they play, but they aren’t born loving those sports. This is something they learn, either on their own or with encouragement. I’d never suggest that parents should try to keep their kids from loving what they love, but maybe I shouldn’t be rooting so strongly for hockey players to score goals, or deliver big hits, if that will tip the scales in my children’s minds about contact sports being worth pursuing.
Every activity has its risks. Hell, inactivity has even more. We should encourage our children to be active, healthy, and yes, competitive. But do they need to crack each others’ skulls for my amusement?
Is this tied up with manliness? Are dads the ones doing this, pushing contact sports on kids so that they are tougher, manlier, by association with powerful kids, their athletic offspring?
What does a world without football look like? What does a world without hock….no, I can’t even imagine that world. I love hockey too much.
I don’t have answers, just questions. Are we just too sensitive about head injuries now? Is this just a controversy-du-jour? Or are we changing as a culture?