Which NFL Players Recommend Football?

We rely on the opinion of “experts” to point us in the healthiest, safest, best direction in life.

When our children feel ill, we turn to pediatricians for medical advice; we listen to the instructions of dentists to improve their dental hygiene; we follow the suggestions of their teachers to further their education. But who do we turn to for advice about safety in their athletic future?

Over the past year, we’ve kept a close eye on the ups and downs that seem to be plaguing youth football in the media, tracking the declining participation rumors, to the blockbuster movie release about CTE, to the most recent claim that youth football participation is on the rise.

While the NFL continues to function under this harsh microscope, current and former players (who some might consider “experts” on the subject) have begun speaking publicly about their stance on youth football.

The true test for these athletes comes in the form of one singular question: Would you let your child play youth football?

The Hard Pass

The following professional NFL players, both current and former, all stand firm in their resolution to encourage their children to consider other, less dangerous sports before football. Although the game has brought them success, the current discoveries about the chronic brain disease, CTE, has proven to be a discouraging factor.

nfl-players“I think that we’re at a real crossroads, as it relates to the grassroots of our sport, because if I had a 10-year-old boy, I don’t know that I’d be real inclined to encourage him to go play football, in light of what we are learning from head injury.”

Troy Aikman

“If i had a son today, and I would say this to all our audience and our viewers out there, I would not let him play football.”

Terry Bradshaw

“I cannot in good conscience allow my grandson to play knowing what I know. Now, his father might want him to play because his father doesn’t know. But knowing what I know, I don’t want him to play.”

Harry Carson 

“I wouldn’t. And my whole life was football. I think the risk is worse than the reward. I really do.”

Mike Ditka

“I would be real leery of him playing football. In some respects, I’m almost glad I don’t have a son because of the pressures he would face. Also the physical toll that it could possibly take on him, not to mention if he never made it, he’s gonna be a failure in everyone’s eyes. But more the physical toll that it could take.”

Brett Favre

“I’m not going to let my kids play just cause of the things I’ve been through in the game…They can play tennis, golf, and all of that, soccer.”

Jermichael Finley

“I don’t want him to. He doesn’t have to play any sport, as far as I’m concerned, but if he does get into it, football will be the last thing I introduce him to.”

Rashean Mathis

“I don’t want my son to play football. I play football so he won’t have to. With what is going on, I don’t know if it’s really worth it.”

Bart Scott

“It’s different when you put on a parent’s hat. And yeah, I want my kids to play and I want them to be healthy and I’d love them to have a great long career. I’d love all that. But as a parent I can’t avoid the fact that it’s a dangerous sport, and it’s a violent sport.”

Kurt Warner

 

The Middle Ground

Some take a much less stringent stance on the issue. Many professional players believe that although they wouldn’t necessarily agree with their young kids taking part in the sport as early as possible, they could see the potential for football in their future once they’ve grown.

nfl-players“At a certain age, I think it’s appropriate. I think you can be too young to go out there and strap on a helmet.”

Drew Brees

“We don’t have an age minimum for our boys, but I think we’ll wait until at least middle school and maybe even high school. It’s not set in stone, but I don’t think we’re going to go the little league route. We’re going to have them well-rounded in sports and the arts, then if they still want to play once they’re a little bit older, we’ll allow them to do so.”

Ben Watson

“If my son wants to play, it will be his decision. But i’m definitely going to make sure he doesn’t play until he’s, maybe, 12 years old. I started at 6 and I’m definitely not going to allow him to play at that age.”

Wesley Woodyard

 

A handful of professional players have begun backing Flag Football as an alternative to tackling at a young age until players have further developed their skills and their bodies.

flag“Personally, I think it has a lot of merit. A lot of kids’ necks at 10, 11, even 12, may not be in a place to fully …It’s a violent game. It’s very important in football to make sure we are teaching the proper technical aspects of the game. This needs to happen with proper coaching and also kids who have the physical maturity to handle the proper techniques.”

Aaron Kampman

“People talk about poor tackling being an issue in contact football. Everyone wants to fix the tackling. Well, tackling in contact football involves hitting each other and hitting your head on the ground, which means more trauma to the brain. But in flag football, obviously you don’t have that.”

– Jordy Nelson

“By the time (my son) gets old enough to play, it’s going to be flag anyway, so he’s not going to be able to tackle. With the direction it’s going, it’s just getting less and less physical, so I think by the time he starts playing tackle, there won’t be harder collisions. He’ll be just fine.”

Brian Urlacher

 

The Strong Supporters

After years of playing their beloved game, it comes as no surprise that professional players are also speaking out in support of football. The following gentlemen take no issue with enrolling their kids in the game – a game that has meant so much to them – and many even have children currently playing.

nfl-players“I would (let my son play football). I would just be a little bit more concerned about certain injuries. When I was playing, my whole mentality was that if I could walk I’d play. Obviously there’s been a lot done for head injuries. They know a lot more about the brain and head trauma that can be created because of being knocked unconscious so many times. The game is still a great game. It’s football.”

Tony Dorsett

“Well, I have a 4-month-old — almost, soon-to-be 5-month-old — son, Jack Harbaugh, and if President Obama feels that way, then (there will) be a little less competition for Jack Harbaugh when he gets older. That’s the first thing that jumps into my mind, if other parents are thinking that way.”

Jim Harbaugh

“I would indeed allow my children to play football. And you should, too! Like football, life is a dangerous game. We drive cars, fly in airplanes, get drunk, fall in love. We go to great lengths to ensure our own safety and the safety of our loved ones, but deep down, we know that we are never truly safe.”

Nate Jackson

“I have a son. I am not forcing football on my son. If he wants to play it — I can’t make decisions for him. All I can do is say, ‘Son, I played it so you don’t have to.’”

Ed Reed

“I think organized sports of all kinds are good for kids. (My son) started at a young age. He plays because he enjoys the game and that’s what he wants to do; he’s at one of the finest universities for being a student athlete now and I couldn’t be prouder. The thing about the game now is we’re much smarter about how we handle head injuries and how we monitor concussions so I think we’re in much better shape than we were before.”

Barry Sanders

“Football will probably be one of the first sports (my son) plays. I don’t know too many 6, 7, and 8-year-olds that are just full-speed running into each other, getting concussions. Crazy injuries happen in any sport, but there’s also a lot of positives that come along with this game. Football teaches you discipline, helps you develop a sense of leadership and courage and camaraderie amongst your friends and teammates.”

Richard Sherman

“Football, I get nervous just like any other parent. And I’m concerned for him just like any other parent. But his goals are his goals, and my job is to help him reach it and protect him when he needs protection. And so to take another kid’s passion from them is just not right.”

Emmitt Smith

“It would have to be his choice. Football isn’t for everybody. If my son came to me and said, ‘Dad, I want to play football,’ then I would let him play.”

Terrell Suggs

 

After reading the opinions of NFL players, have you been swayed one way or another? What are your feelings on letting your children play youth football? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Youth Football Participation Surprises Once Again

youth-footballHorror stories circulating about football participation have been perpetuated with a constant flow of research studies, media coverage, and backing from professional athletes speaking out about the long-term ramifications of their careers.

It came as no surprise when Pop Warner youth football participation reportedly experienced a decline of almost 10 percent in 2015.

But a new study released by the Physical Activity Council and Sports Marketing Surveys USA contradicts the overwhelmingly negative outlook on youth football participation.

After surveying 30,000 Americans age 6 and older, the study found that youth football is currently the fastest growing sport. The number of participants in football grew, while most other sports declined.

The game’s no-tackle, flag football option showed the biggest increase in 2015, growing 8.7 percent among children ages 6 to 14. Tackle football increased by 1.9 percent in the same age group.

Similar results were found in the 15 to 18 age group. Flag football increased 10.5 percent and tackle football increased 2.5 percent. Flag football, tackle football, and basketball (1.1 percent) were the only three sports to experience an increase in the 15 to 18 age group.

Football programs are attributing their current growth to the way the sport has embraced coaching education and teaching smarter, safer ways to play the sport in response to the safety concerns among players and parents.

Ironically, this study was released the same day an NFL executive confirmed a link between football and CTE, a chronic brain disease.

Surprised by the survey results? Let us know in the comments below if you think football will continue to increase despite safety concerns, or if you think next year’s results will paint a different picture.

The “Heads Up” About Youth Football

Youth FootballWhether it be dreaming of being the star quarterback on the high school football team or watching the big game on Thanksgiving while eating turkey, football has always been an iconic part of the American Dream.

But over the last few years, Pop Warner youth football participation has been experiencing a decline of almost 10 percent.

How can it be that something so ingrained in our country’s culture is suddenly dropping in popularity?

The world of football has drastically changed over the last decade.

Research studies, media coverage of injuries, and professional athletes speaking out have all brought attention to the significance of head injuries and their long-term ramifications for football players.

After over 70 former professional players were diagnosed with a rare brain disorder that can cause aggression, depression, impaired judgment, confusion and problems with impulse control – chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) – athletes, sports fans, and commentators alike are questioning the future of the game. Recent headlines of the 24-year-old linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers, Chris Borland, retiring from the NFL due to head injury concerns have sparked up the conversation once more.

Professionals aren’t the only ones affected. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that emergency room visits for concussions among young athletes ages 8 to 13 has doubled, and concussions among teens ages 14 to 19 have risen 200 percent in the last decade alone.

With worried parents ready to withdraw their children from the sport, a new program called “Heads Up Football” stepped in to train coaches on safer tackling techniques, the signs of a concussion, and helmet-fitting practices.

Youth football players are still in the developmental stages of their lives, both physically and mentally. It is extremely important that every youth player is properly fitted with a helmet and shoulder pads. Equipment that does not fit the player properly places them at a greater rick of injury.

The program also teaches tackling techniques that emphasized the importance of keeping the head up and engaging the shoulders to protect the head during play.

Researchers looked at 10 youth leagues utilizing the program in Arizona, Indiana, Massachusetts, and South Carolina, each varying in demographics and size, to investigate the correlation between coaching behaviors and player safety. Concussions amongst teams with coaches who participated in training were less frequent compared to the teams with untrained coaches.

The results work to put an end to the days of volunteer coaches teaching the game based off of their own experiences. No matter the sport, educating coaches in safety techniques has now become a critical factor in keeping young athletes healthy.

Athletic Training program director at A.T. Still University, Tamara McLeod, PhD, believes that concussions will never be eliminated, “but if we teach proper technique, we can hopefully decrease the risk.”

An Alternative?

Flag FootballIn the event that parents still aren’t persuaded to enroll their children in the sport, youth football organizations are starting to recognize that as tackle football enrollment decreases by almost 10 percent, flag football participation is on the rise by nearly 11 percent.

Flag football acts as an alternative route for those kids (or parents) who aren’t ready to tackle and/or don’t believe it’s safe. The flag football players are learning the same skills that other youth football players are learning, but replacing the tackle with pulling a flag – removing the physical elements from the game.

By offering a safer flag program, youth football organization are creating an avenue that helps to postpone injury for their young players.

Knowing that training can help, but not eliminate the risk, what do you see in the future for youth football?

Share in the comments section below!

This Thanksgiving, Think Of The Future Of Youth Football

Youth Football Players
Image courtesy NOLA.com

Much has been said on our blog and otherwise about the concussion epidemic in sports and its impact on youth sports – most notably football. Given all the recent news of long term brain injuries amongst former NFL players, football is often times singled out as the most dangerous sports.

At the youth level, kids get concussions from many sports – football, ice hockey, lacrosse, soccer, etc., but football is singled out – fairly or unfairly.

A recent column in the Newark Star-Ledger presents a number of discussion points on the issue:

  • 9.5% decline in Pop Warner Football registrants over past 2 years.
  • Increased emphasis on proper concussion awareness/training.
  • Increased emphasis on proper tackling to minimize head contact.
  • Knowledge on concussions in its infancy.
  • Risk of participation in unsanctioned leagues with less emphasis on safety.
  • Flag football not appealing for everyone.

Overall, the piece is very thought-provoking, not just for youth football but youth sports in general.

Does the recent emphasis on concussions in the news impact what sport(s) your child plays? Let us know in the comments below.