Playing football is a rite of passage for many American youths. In some states, such as Texas, it’s a way of life. Playing sports in school teaches collaboration, discipline, and strategy, but is there something more sinister lurking under the surface of pep rallies and weekday practices?
The Risk of Youth Sports Injuries
In 2015, five high school football players died after suffering an on-field injury. From 2005—2014, 92 high school players died from causes associated with the sport. When news broadcasts and physicians warn parents about the risks of contact sports such as football, they’re not exaggerating. Head injuries, heat injuries, and other injuries pose a threat to ball players.
As new research on brain injuries is available, many parents are realizing the link between contact sports and health consequences. Many sports teams have started using helmet sensors to monitor the impact of head trauma, which indicates the pervasiveness of the problem. Statistics from the CDC show some astounding numbers related to sports injuries:
- 3.5 million children under 14 are treated for sports injuries every year.
- High school sports players account for two million injuries on average per year.
- More injuries occur during practice when children aren’t wearing proper safety gear than during games.
- Over 50% of sports injuries children sustain are completely preventable.
In Alto, Texas, during a football game in fall 2015, Cam’ron Matthews collapsed on the field. According to reports, the player felt dizzy right before halftime. When he collapsed, he was taken via helicopter to a hospital in Tyler. He didn’t survive, and his death struck a chord in many parents across the state.
The Causes of Sports Injuries in Youth Players
Football players who die young may suffer from injuries sustained while playing the sport or because of indirect causes. In addition to traumatic head injuries, football players have died from heart conditions, heat stroke, and hydration imbalances. Many football coaches push their players hard during practices and at games, and many athletes may feel unable to speak up about how they feel. Some enjoy the sport so much they may not want to interrupt game play.
Those who aren’t fatally injured on the field may suffer from undiagnosed brain injuries over the years. At least one study from the American Academy of Neurology has connected youth football with an increased rate of memory, thinking, and attention problems in adults. Children who don’t experience direct adverse outcomes from playing tackle football may still face an increased risk of neurological dysfunction later in life.
Should I Prevent My Child From Playing Football?
While many of the studies available are preliminary, they do indicate a link between playing football and an increased risk of health problems. Ultimately, every parent has to choose whether to allow a child to play tackle football. Those who do can minimize the risk with some proven safety measures, including:
- Requiring your child wear good protective equipment. Whether your kid is playing with friends or practicing with a team, encourage him or her to wear the right protective gear.
- Using a helmet sensor. Find out exactly how much trauma your child experiences in a game with an app-controlled helmet sensor.
- Encouraging proper nutrition and hydration. No child should play ball dehydrated or without the right fuel.
- Taking medical evaluations seriously. Your child should have a thorough physical before playing to identify any underlying health issues.