Damar Hamlin’s tragic collapse of the grid highlights a long-standing social dilemma surrounding gaming. This game might be too dangerous to play, even though it’s deeply rooted in American culture.
Children’s participation in tackle football has declined over the years amid growing safety concerns. The signaling moment for its decline was perhaps the release of a 2017 study that examined the brains of 111 deceased NFL players and found degenerative disease in all but one. The Boston study, along with the 2015 Will Smith film, raised public awareness of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), prompted reform, and led thousands of families to seek safer sports.
Head injuries may be the biggest culprit, but football poses risks to many parts of the human body, including the heart. The Buffalo Bills’ 24-year-old safety Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest and collapsed on the field Monday night after tackling an opponent.
Luckily, Hamlin recovered well by the end of the week of FaceTime with his teammates.
Still, his high-profile injury has reignited debate over the basic safety of a game that requires participants to bump into each other, even after a century of advances in protective equipment and medical protocols.
Over 1.5 million kids play tackle football. Research shows that they and their families are aware of the risks as well as the reforms and believe they can play the game safely. Head bumps and concussions are becoming less common.
“Frankly, I think it’s safer than ever for kids to play,” said Bruce Howard, spokesman for the National Federation of High School Associations, the rule-making body for high school sports.
But the helmeted ranks are thin. Participation in high school football has fallen from 1.1 million in 2008 to 973,000 in 2022, Howard said. According to the Aspen Institute, from the age of 6 onwards he tackled as a 12-year-old. His football participation rate dropped by nearly 40% over the same period.
Lawmakers in several states are proposing measures to ban tackle football for younger children. None of the initiatives have passed.
“Football isn’t going away. I don’t think it should be.” , want to watch safe football, but I don’t think that means seven-year-olds should wear metal helmets and tackle each other.
The social retreat from tackle football in preteens and tweens stems from the findings of two brain studies.
One is that the risk of CTE increases with years of playing. Children who start playing tackle football in elementary school and play through college face a much higher risk of cognitive decline than those who start in high school, researchers say.
Second, children’s brains are still developing and susceptible to damage.
“What happened was that parents saw the risks to their children and realized that there were risks to the developing brain, and that had to be taken seriously,” said the center’s medical director. One Gregory Oshanik said, he holds a Ph.D. from Neurorehabilitation Services in Richmond, Virginia, and served on the board of directors of the American Brain Injury Society.
“If you look at the number one cause of concussions in sports, it’s actually football,” he said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention page advises, “We all have a role to play in protecting young people from concussions.” The federal agency cites a study that found that kids who play football tackle him endure 15 times more “bumps to the head” than athletes in the no-tack variation, flag football. I’m here.
A competition page uploaded by the NFL provides a topic for coaches looking to rebuild flagged programs. “You may be asked a few questions, and here’s how to answer them,” the site said, listing safety improvements and “helping parents see for themselves.” So, I’m urging the coach with a bit of a rebellious attitude.
The 6- to 12-year-old demographic engages in several other team sports, including baseball, basketball, soccer, tennis, golf, and volleyball.
However, football remains America’s national sport in terms of popularity and TV viewership. And it has maintained its dominance in high school even after a slow decline over the past decade.
Given the publicity issues of sports, researchers are interested in the sensibilities of the more than one million families who still support sports.
Warner and her colleagues at Ohio State University surveyed nearly 4,000 Americans and found that they were fairly evenly split on whether tackle football is good for kids.
Football supporters tend to be male, conservative, racially diverse, patriotic, and less educated than those who think the sport is not suitable for young people.
“It’s not just about gender, race, class, whether you played football or not, it’s a lot of those things combined with each other,” she said. “Football has been thought of as a sport that turns boys into men.”
A study of high school athletes by researchers at Grand View University in Iowa found that those who quit soccer were more worried about making money and managing their time than about avoiding concussions. understood.
“Kids who choose to play understand the risks and potential harm that they do, but they are happy to play nonetheless,” says Scott, associate professor of sports management at Grandview. Bull said.
Researchers at Indiana University examined public attitudes toward youth soccer and found that there are well-founded arguments on both sides.
An Indiana survey asked respondents if they would like their teenage boys to play tackle football. Those who said yes were more likely to be familiar with the game and its safety procedures, said Kyle Kercher, an assistant professor of sports administration in the university’s school of public health.
Those who answered “no” were more familiar with the potential for brain injury and were more likely to think the sport was tacitly unsafe.
Like his colleagues in Ohio and Iowa, Kercher is a football fan. He played in high school and college. He had two concussions of his own. He woke up in an Oregon stadium thinking he was in Montana.
To help the sport, Kercher conducted groundbreaking research into how coaches can practice meaningfully without damaging their brains.
Kercher’s findings sound obvious. Players are much less likely to head-butt when performing drills without physical contact, and when colliding with bags instead of bodies. Coaches can perform “control” drills, stopping at the moment of contact, and “sud” drills, stopping mid-tack.
“It wasn’t that long ago when I was in high school and there was no limit to how many times we could bump into each other,” he said. Today, coaches are learning to limit off-game tackles. Kercher said players are instructed not to “lead with their heads” during the game.
When Kercher was a graduate student, a colleague told him, “Nobody should be allowed to play football.” he didn’t.
“My whole approach to this is that it feels so deeply and culturally ingrained in American society that I don’t think it will go away. am.”