Photo Credit: Erik Isakson, Getty
I have four boys. Boys who are busy, active, athletic, movers, shakers – basically, they are involved in every sport known to us. They have played baseball, football, basketball, soccer, lacrosse and golf. They have been involved in fencing, gymnastics, swimming and winter sports. Like most sports parents, our calendar year is ruled by the school year and the sports season. It is a blessing and a curse to be married to a former athlete. I usually defer to my husband, the resident sports expert, when it comes to the boys joining a team. When football season starts, our household eats, sleeps and breathes football -- so much so that I ended up abhorring football by the time the season ends. And we are involved in every end: coaching, team mom, carpooling, volunteer, field staff, etc. We are the football family. Then it all stopped.
It began with the reports that would occasionally pop through my email with headlines containing the words: football, concussion, neurological, damage, permanent, injury. These were strung in an order that would make any parent cringe as they read the article. I subsequently learned about the incidence of concussions in youth football and the parents and coaches who were unaware of the signs and symptoms. I also discovered how damaging concussions can be and how they can cause permanent neurological damage resulting in memory loss, brain damage, nerve damage, and/or loss of life. I was shocked by the recent off-season suicides by two former NFL players, as well as lawsuits against the league by NFL players alleging negligence regarding the release of information concerning the impact of head injuries. I learned about Zackery Lystedt, a young man who endured a life-threatening brain injury and permanent disability at age 13 in 2006. He suffered a concussion while playing and was sent back into the second half of a game, resulting in the injury that has left him permanently disabled.
So, I made the executive decision that my boys would not play football -- and apparently President Obama agrees with my decision. I took an active approach in discovering the pros and cons of my boys playing football. I was fortunate to attend a Youth and Healthy Safety Luncheon sponsored by the NFL that provided expert views from medical experts, coaches and parents. Would it be worth a head injury for them to develop comradery and teamwork? Is it a fair trade off for my boys to learn responsibility and perseverance with the looming possibility of concussions over their head? Can I trust the coaches and team staff to recognize the signs and symptoms of a concussion if I am not at the game?
As of now, they aren’t playing. I have, however, allowed them to start non-contact training just in case I change my mind. This is in no way a lifetime ban on football -- other sports such as soccer has a high incidence of concussions also -- just a moratorium until this mommy’s nerves are calmed enough to be able to watch other kids collide into her babies without running out onto the field and tackling other folk’s kids.