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Are Contact Sports More Dangerous than Fun?

“Suck it up!”

How many times have you been at a child’s sporting event and heard those words yelled at a child who may have just suffered an injury, whether it’s a scraped knee or a twisted ankle?

For many little boys and girls, contact sports are regarded as fun. And they should be. There is nothing like a Pee-Wee football game in crisp fall weather, or an upbeat girls’ soccer game. If your child is a serious sports player, you know that they look forward to nothing more than taking the field with their friends, aiming to win. And if they get hurt? Well, they’re taught to play through the pain, showing everyone just how tough they can be. But stunning information now shows that concussions and head injuries are on the rise, and those occurring in childhood are having lasting effects on children.
We all know the importance of teaching our kids to be team players, and for many parents, that lesson comes from letting their children play team sports. Whether it’s soccer or synchronized swimming, sports are known to teach children how to interact with each other and how to lose graciously. It’s also a great way to keep kids active, encouraging exercise and fresh air.

But in contact sports like football and hockey, no second thought is given to the rough-and-tumble way that kids (especially young boys) approach the sport. They’re encouraged to hit and tackle to the best of their abilities, opening the door for head injuries to occur. And even when they’re not in a person-to-person contact sport, injury is still possible (even “heading” the ball in soccer can net a child a concussion). While protective gear is mandatory, there is not much a little plastic helmet can do when your child gets hit head-to-head by someone twice their size (common in high school sports).  The number of concussions in teenagers has risen sharply, and studies are showing that ALS (Lou Gherig’s disease) is becoming a common side effect of childhood sports-related head injuries. Yet parents encourage their children to play through pain, with some parents being caught on YouTube telling their kids to just “suck it up.” A hard hit is a good hit, regardless of the consequences.

So how much is too much? Are we essentially harming our kids by teaching them to play hard? Is our defensive gear not strong enough?

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