Tuesday, September 2, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Should parents protect their sons from football?

crisp column sig

By
March 04, 2014 |

Disclosure:  I am not a parent.  But it’s easy to understand and sympathize with the dilemma faced by mothers and fathers of strapping boys who are avid to play football on their junior high, high school, or college teams.

These days the professional football player is at the apex of the sports hero hierarchy, and the acclaim and rewards begin very early.  For big, fast, athletic boys in towns all across America the allure of football and the pressure to play are enormous.

So how do conscientious parents sort through the predictable conclusion that too many blows to the head can result in long-term, life-destroying deficits and that the damage often starts long before players reach the NFL?

And how do they balance their obligation to protect their children against the value that sports – even football – might bring to their lives?

Like me, President Obama has no sons, but he commented on this dilemma recently in a much-discussed New Yorker article, saying, “I would not let my son play pro football.”

But this isn’t the choice that parents face.  The tiny minority of players that reach the top will make that decision for themselves.  But they need permission to start somewhere, and that responsibility falls heavily on their parents.

Some parents appear to be listening to the evidence.  In January a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll reported that 40 percent of 800 Americans polled said that they would encourage their children to pursue sports other than football because of concerns about concussions.  This may explain why Pop Warner, the nation’s largest youth football program, experienced a participation drop of nearly 10 percent between 2010 and 2012.

Still, parents have a lot going against them when they try to discern and then do the right thing.  Other seemingly safer sports have their own problems.  In a story titled “Brain Trauma Extends to the Soccer Field,” the New York Times reported last week on soccer player Patrick Grange, who after his death at age 29 was diagnosed with significant chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the condition associated with repeated blows to the head.

So, concussion-deniers are quick to assert, concussions can occur in all sports, including field hockey and cheerleading.  Furthermore, more players are probably killed or injured in automobile accidents on their way to practice than are killed or injured on the field.  There’s no such thing as a risk-free life.

Yes, probably.  But this line of thinking sounds like a rationalization in service of a conclusion that we passionately hope to be true, that we can continue to enjoy the exciting game of football without acknowledging all the physical damage that it does to its players.

This is probably an acknowledgement too far for us to reach as a nation.  Rules changes and practice modifications are unlikely to do much to diminish the collateral damage from an extremely rough sport, the kind of long-term effects that even the best players are unable to escape.  Only parents can save boys from that.

The football hero of my university days was Earl Campbell, a tough running back who won the Heisman Trophy at the University of Texas, starred in the NFL, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991.

Campbell, a first-class human being, had a dream football career.  Now, unfortunately, he can barely walk.  He suffers chronic pain from the battering he endured during high school, college and nine years in the NFL.  He gets around with a walker and, sometimes, a wheelchair.  He’s 58.

Of course, Campbell might say that his physical ills are balanced sufficiently by the fame, money and glory of his spectacular career.  And who’s to say they’re not?

But your son, tossing the pigskin around in the backyard, can’t imagine ever being 58, much less using a wheelchair.  He already thinks he’s Earl Campbell or, more likely, Peyton Manning.  You’re probably the only one who can help him see what’s at stake.

John M. Crisp, an op-ed columnist for McClatchy-Tribune, teaches in the English Department at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas. Readers may send him email at jcrisp@delmar.edu.

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 2 comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • Jason KnowlesMarch 04, 2014 - 9:18 am

    Football is a great sport. Very, very few players will actually play college or pro ball and so the likelihood of them experiencing long term issues from the game are small. I tore my ACL and lateral meniscus playing semi-pro football for the Solano Chiefs. But I could have easily done that same damage by skiing, playing rec basketball, or whatever. Please don't stifle your child's natural proclivity towards sports just because of a few inherent risks. The likelihood of long-term damage is miniscule compared to the lessons they can learn. Just my $.02.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rich GiddensMarch 04, 2014 - 7:03 pm

    Jason, I believe you are 100% correct on that one. Sports is good for kid's development and if your child is so inclined, he or she needs to be encouraged and supported in said endeavors!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

Labor Day not a holiday for everyone

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Labor Day breakfast introduces union-backed candidates

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Pool provides last dose of summer fun in the sun

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
SafeQuest schedules peer counseling training course

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A5

Labor Day sees more Solano freeway crashes

By Glen Faison | From Page: A5

 
Fairfield police log: Aug. 31, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Suisun City police log: Aug. 31, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Suisun City police log: Aug. 30, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Fairfield police log: Aug. 30, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

.

US / World

VP Biden says workers deserve ‘fair share’

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
Obama: ‘Revving’ economy calls for higher wages

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

Senegal monitors contacts of 1st Ebola patient

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
San Francisco to be 1st to test urban farming law

By The Associated Press | From Page:

GOP challenger tries novel tactics against Brown

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
Texas’ Perry says disparaging tweet unauthorized

By The Associated Press | From Page:

US eating habits improve a bit – except among poor

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
No gray area: Beliefs shape views of Brown killing

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

Americans detained in North Korea call for US help

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
Iraqi prime minister pledges to root out militants

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

Poland’s PM: Ukraine’s war must be stopped now

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
Pro-Russian rebels lower demands in peace talks

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

US helicopter crashes in Gulf of Aden; all rescued

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
.

Opinion

.

Living

Community Calendar: Sept. 2, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page:

 
.

Entertainment

Inquiries begin into nude celebrity photo leaks

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
‘Guardians’ tops Labor Day, summer box office

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

 
.

Sports

Kirk rallies to win the Deutsche Bank

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Rockies top Giants after losing end of suspended game

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Dunn homers in 1st at-bat as A’s top Mariners

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Right guard Boone passes physical, rejoins 49ers

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Raiders name rookie Derek Carr as starting QB

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Armijo beats Vanden 2-0 to claim All-City boys soccer title

By Brian Arnold | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Armed with new deal, Chiefs’ Smith looks forward

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Column: Stewart’s Chase status doesn’t matter

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Raiders ink CB Dowling, 9 others to practice squad

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Serena Williams, Djokovic roll to US Open quarters

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Houston Astros fire manager Bo Porter

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Hamels, 3 Phillies relievers no-hit Braves

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
.

Business

Markets drift as Wall Street has day off

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Austerity debate flares as Europe recovery fades

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

Civil disobedience expected in fast-food pay fight

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Beetle Bailey Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Zits Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Wizard of Id Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Sally Forth Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Bridge Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Blondie Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Rose is Rose Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Get Fuzzy Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Sudoku Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
B.C. Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Baldo Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Frank and Ernest Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Crossword Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Dilbert Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

For Better or Worse Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Peanuts Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Cryptoquote Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Garfield Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Word Sleuth Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7