The other day I was crossing the street with my 6-year-old son when he asked me this: “Mommy, can I play football?” If he asked me today with the heartbreaking news of Rutgers junior Eric LeGrand being paralyzed from the neck down, which follows hard on the heels of the story of the Penn football player who killed himself and whose brain shows signs of traumatic brain injury, I’d want to say no. My husband, he’d probably say yes.
Spinal cord injuries like the one suffered by LeGrand don’t happen very often in football. It’s awful and tragic when they do, but there are rules in place that minimize the risk factors. If letting my son play football were just about the potential for a spinal cord injury, I’d probably say yes. But the brain injury question is different because the problem seems to stem from the game itself, so I’d say no, or would I?
As parents we’re asked to assess risk all the time and we don’t always do such a good job of it. We worry about terrorists when we really need to worry about people texting behind the wheel. Yesterday, Madeline Holler asked if some sports too dangerous for kids. I don’t know the answer. If my son really wants to play football, like his dad and uncle and cousin did, I know I’d want to say no because of all the risk factors. But if a child really wants to give a game a try, I’m not sure it’s reasonable for me to say no and then pile him into a cab so he can get from school to pottery class in time (like I do every Tuesday). What do you think?
Right now, though, all my thoughts are with Eric LeGrand, his family, his teammates and the Army team which Rutgers was playing when the injury happened. We wish him the best.