“You know, he really wants to play football” my husband says to me.
I’ve known this conversation was coming since the time my little boy could waddle around in his diaper and throw his hands in the air to yell, “touchdown!”
He’s an athletic kid. He loves any and all sports, including the games he makes up on his own. Right now, he’s really into baseball – he’s been playing since he was four and takes it pretty seriously for a seven year old.
I love watching him play and can think of nowhere else I’d rather be on a Saturday afternoon than a little league baseball game.
But football? I cringe a little when I think of it. Like a lot of people, the movie Concussion really scared the heck out of me.
Then I saw this new study from the Boston University School of Medicine that says kids that start playing football before the age of 12 have more than TWICE the odds for clinical impairment.
What does that mean?
It means that they have more problems analyzing, organizing, regulating their behavior, and even feeling apathy than a child that didn’t start playing until he was older. They also had more than three times the odds for depression.
“Overall, our study provides further evidence that playing American football before age 12, and being hit in the head repeatedly through tackle football during a critical time of brain development, is associated with later-life problems with mood and behavior.” -Dr Robert Stern
The doctor acknowledges the huge benefits of youth sports and doesn’t discourage play. The suggestion is to find a way to do it safely without lasting consequences. During this precious time of brain development, kids just should not be getting hit in the head.
Perhaps the key here is to limit all football for kids under the age of 12 to flag with no tackling. Whatever the answer is, we need to be diligent in keeping our kids safe.
As for my little boy? I’m not sure when we’ll finally give in and let him play football, but I can say for sure that I don’t think I’ll be letting him play tackle any time soon.