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Youth football; are your kids going to play?

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  • As my boys near the age of being able to play competitive sports my wife and I have been discussing the possibility of our sons playing football. The oldest is going to be eligible to play pop warner football in a few months when he turns five and he has already expressed interest in playing. He's done soccer, basketball, t-ball, swimming, and we've been to the driving range a few times. We've done all of those without hesitation, but football has me a little worried, though I hate to keep them from pursuing a sport they want to do. I'm leaning toward enrolling him when the time comes but I want to know what other fans of the game think. What do I need to look for? What reservations do you have? What experiences did you have? Am I overthinking the whole thing :D
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    HAWKAMANIA
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  • I don't have kids but my nephew who has been bugging his parents for years to play finally was agreed on to play for the eighth grade team. It wasn't as "bad" as my sis-in law thought and he enjoyed playing and was good at it (a shutdown corner).

    He didn't like the commitment of practice (5 days a week). The freshman football coach who was his former baseball coach wants him to play bad, because he knows he's a super athletic kid. He plays 4 other sports though so he is pretty busy even without football.

    I'd let your son try it. He might love it, or he may hate it.
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  • Both my boys play high school football. One's a freshman and one's a sophomore. Neither of them played organized football before their freshman years. I do worry about them, but they seem to enjoy it and neither of them have suffered any serious injuries yet.
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  • My youngest played through high school. Knew he wouldn't go past that.

    He started playing flag at 7-8 years old, tackle after that. We are in a football hotbed for high schools, and it starts to get extremely competitive before 8th grade with everyone thinking they will be starting in high school. With senior classes being 1500+, it's a very few that play at the varsity level. Article in Dallas paper this morning about a suburb who has purposefully built smaller schools (4A size) which will allow more participants. Their AD talked about having 8 high schools means 8 starting QB's vs the neighboring communities (6A size) that have same population but will only have 2 or 3 high schools so fewer participants.

    Son played quite a bit at the JV level and I really enjoyed watching every minute. His senior year I was more relaxed when he was on the sideline rather than in game. Saw too many serious injuries at that level and prayed it would never happen to my son.

    Side note, my son had to block Jackson Jeffcoat during an 8th school game. Jackson was a 6-8 inches taller, weighed 40-50 lbs more, and was quick as lightning. Son was knocked on his *ss most of that game. I can laugh today, but not so much then.
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  • It's about the coaches, coaches that teach how to perform tackles and block without using your head versus coaches that don't care that kids will want to lead with their heads and use bad techniques. You can't do much about the later if they are on the opposition other then get on the refs about it and get flags thrown. But those techniques learned at the pee wee levels carry over to the others.
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  • Nope. High school football was probably the highlight of my life before children, and went a long way to build my work ethic, confidence and leadership skills. But it just isn't worth it. My knees are shot, I have constant back pain from a football injury, and get a foggy head sometimes which I blame on concussions. And the kids are getting bigger stronger faster. Until they go back to leather helmets, it isn't for us.
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  • I hear constantly that I need to consider the coaching, but I really don't know what to look for either. I played only a year of football in middle school and am not that knowledgeable about what to look for in coaches. I figure at a young age it might be safer and, yeah, they might end up hating it. Their safety is paramount, but I hate to deny them if they genuinely enjoy the game.
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  • HAWKAMANIA wrote:I hear constantly that I need to consider the coaching, but I really don't know what to look for either. I played only a year of football in middle school and am not that knowledgeable about what to look for in coaches. I figure at a young age it might be safer and, yeah, they might end up hating it. Their safety is paramount, but I hate to deny them if they genuinely enjoy the game.


    A good start is watching Petes film on how to tackle and stuff, there are some good books on technique as well that cover things on the line and how players should take hits.

    Knowing the techniques makes it easier to watch coaches and see what they know, also if your kid is playing and moving up in a class or age group watching those coaches ahead of time during practices will also be a benefit. You will know what kind of emphasis they are putting on safety and teaching.
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  • Tical21 wrote:Nope. High school football was probably the highlight of my life before children, and went a long way to build my work ethic, confidence and leadership skills. But it just isn't worth it. My knees are shot, I have constant back pain from a football injury, and get a foggy head sometimes which I blame on concussions. And the kids are getting bigger stronger faster. Until they go back to leather helmets, it isn't for us.

    I don't have kids, but this ^^^ is pretty close to my feelings these days. My mom didn't want me to play in high school. After much sustained effort, I convinced her to sign. If she had the concussion info that's available now, I'm certain I wouldn't have. If I were currently mentoring my 14-year-old self, I would inundate him with stories of long-term injuries and aftereffects.

    Football is a great physical outlet for energetic, testosterone-fueled boys. There's no comparison. And at the time, I couldn't imagine not playing. But at 14-17 years old I couldn't imagine what being 25 would be like, much less 40. With hindsight, and now unable to exercise much more than walks and light stretching because of knee pain and a nerve problem in my neck that's begun radiating into my shoulder and causing numbness in my hand, I would seek out alternatives. Competition, feats of athleticism, and teamwork can be experienced elsewhere.

    I remember a kid in high school who, after 2 years on the team, quit and became a cheerleader. Yep, a male cheerleader in the 90s. Weirdo. Well that guy got a full ride to an SEC school, hung out with attractive women, and never got concussed holding one of them up in the air. It might not have matched the intensity of football, but it didn't bring the bodily stress or lifelong pain either. The weirdo made the smart move.

    One last way to put it. Would you sign up your kid to participate in an activity where he straps on a bicycle helmet and runs at full speed into the garage door 20 times? Strange image, I know, and it discounts the strategic aspect, but that's exactly how one of my high school coaches described the brutality of a football game. As teens we laughed because it sounded ridiculous. Now I get what he was saying.

    I understand I am biased by my own experience. I can't say football is wrong for everyone. I just hope anyone who chooses to play, or allows their children to play, sees the whole picture. I am curious to hear from people who played and did not have serious injuries. Did anyone here play at the HS level and avoid lasting physical ailments?
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  • I don't have kids, but I'm curious what is fueling your concerns as parents? is it CTE and head injuries? or just the overall dangers of football.

    I personally wouldn't let my kids play football (assuming I have any), but a lot of the research that I've read is very concerning for sports as a whole. In fact, most of the studies say that simple repeated head impacts are what cause the most damage. Which leads to heavy ramifications for all youth sports, not just football. Soccer, basketball and even baseball have similar risks of repeated head injury, yet most parent's I know are flocking to these sports as "safe" alternatives to football.

    Football seems to be the target of sensationalism because it is the most violent of all the major sports.
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  • Not until 7th-8th grade.
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  • knownone wrote:I don't have kids, but I'm curious what is fueling your concerns as parents? is it CTE and head injuries? or just the overall dangers of football.

    I personally wouldn't let my kids play football (assuming I have any), but a lot of the research that I've read is very concerning for sports as a whole. In fact, most of the studies say that simple repeated head impacts are what cause the most damage. Which leads to heavy ramifications for all youth sports, not just football. Soccer, basketball and even baseball have similar risks of repeated head injury, yet most parent's I know are flocking to these sports as "safe" alternatives to football.

    Football seems to be the target of sensationalism because it is the most violent of all the major sports.

    Youth Soccer has more concussions than youth football.

    Most youth coaches teach "heads up" tackling. Like I said my nephew played 8th grade football last year for the first time. He said they spent about 3 weeks going over safety, proper tackling technique, and conditioning before any contact on the field.

    I played soph-Frosh in highschool 30 years ago and we may have had 1 day on safety and proper tackling technique. We had massive hitting in practice, and guys were hurt left and right. I had one concussion (called getting your bell rung back then) where you'd take a few plays off and go back in.

    Things are much different today....
    The worst injury my nephew got was the wind got knocked out of him besides little dings here and there. I don't think they had any broken bones, no concussions, and might have been a sprain here or there and they had 40+ kids playing. They also did a ton of rotations where they'd pull out a ton of kids at one time and put another group in. They never lost a game either. BTW they had a girl on the team, and did play against another girl.

    I'm not saying major injuries don't happen today because they still do, but to a lesser extent.....with better knowledge, better coaching, better technique, better technology, it's quite a bit safer than 30 years ago.

    But....... I think it's a decision that every parent needs to ponder, and hopefully the kid is a part of that decision making process. My biggest word of advice is educate yourself on "Today's youth football" not yours or mine, if you do that and still don't want your kid playing, the at least it was an informed decision based on facts and knowledge.

    ....and just because you kid plays a year of football doesn't mean he'll want to keep playing it. My nephew played last year and had fun, and was a good player, but even with coaches wanting him to play his freshman year, he is more than likely not going to because of the full time commitment. ....but he tried it and now won't regret NOT ever giving it a chance.
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  • Yes, if we end up in the States.

    A lot of the really bad possibilities dont happen until you get to college. 180 lb bodies slamming at combined speeds of 30 mph vs. 230 pound bodies slamming at combined speeds of 40mph.. do the math.. huge difference.

    I think also there is some perspective needed..people think that a "no issue" body is the norm..but its not.. once you hit 40 and over youre going to have issues no matter what you did, and they will likely be related to what it was you were doing.

    The scare mongering is out of hand. THere are risks. Yes. But there are rewards.
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  • I normally stay away from topics like this because I'm very passionate about my opinion and that can be offensive to some people. I won't say too much (I hope) but I will say that I absolutely do not understand why any parent would not "let" their child play any sport they wanted, especially in a country where we value freedom and allowing people to make their own choices.

    In parenting I try to work from the philosophy that I'm not my children's task master and they are not slaves. I'm trying to teach them, and give them the skills to be self-sufficient and successful people in our society, not live their lives for them and make them reliant on my decisions for their lives. If I have concerns about the risks of something they want to do then I communicate with them and try to get them to understand the risks and the rewards, but ultimately the decision is theirs. That's a much better way to prepare them for the future as an adult where the ability to weigh risk versus reward is a necessary skill. Obviously this is within reason, I'm not talking about anything illegal. I believe forcing your children not to play a sport because of your own fears is selfish, and kind of lazy parenting. I know many parents will not see it that way because they've convinced themselves that they are ultimately looking out for the well-being of their children (protecting them) but they could be doing just as much damage to that child by holding them back from something that could provide the key experiences in their life which make them into the most successful person they are capable of being. No decision should ever be made based on fear alone.

    Playing football taught me leadership skills, people skills, and provided some of the best memories of my life. It helped me deal with my fathers death when I was in Jr. high, and gave me an avenue to connect with my classmates even though I'm very introverted and shy normally. I played baseball some and basketball as well, but for me no other sport reached me, and held my passion, like football did. Many of the things I learned playing are things I didn't get from any other area of my life, or any other sport. If my parents would have forced me not to have those experiences I would have missed out on lessons and skills that I use to this day in my career.
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  • DJrmb wrote:I normally stay away from topics like this because I'm very passionate about my opinion and that can be offensive to some people. I won't say too much (I hope) but I will say that I absolutely do not understand why any parent would not "let" their child play any sport they wanted, especially in a country where we value freedom and allowing people to make their own choices.

    In parenting I try to work from the philosophy that I'm not my children's task master and they are not slaves. I'm trying to teach them, and give them the skills to be self-sufficient and successful people in our society, not live their lives for them and make them reliant on my decisions for their lives. If I have concerns about the risks of something they want to do then I communicate with them and try to get them to understand the risks and the rewards, but ultimately the decision is theirs. That's a much better way to prepare them for the future as an adult where the ability to weigh risk versus reward is a necessary skill. Obviously this is within reason, I'm not talking about anything illegal. I believe forcing your children not to play a sport because of your own fears is selfish, and kind of lazy parenting. I know many parents will not see it that way because they've convinced themselves that they are ultimately looking out for the well-being of their children (protecting them) but they could be doing just as much damage to that child by holding them back from something that could provide the key experiences in their life which make them into the most successful person they are capable of being. No decision should ever be made based on fear alone.

    Playing football taught me leadership skills, people skills, and provided some of the best memories of my life. It helped me deal with my fathers death when I was in Jr. high, and gave me an avenue to connect with my classmates even though I'm very introverted and shy normally. I played baseball some and basketball as well, but for me no other sport reached me, and held my passion, like football did. Many of the things I learned playing are things I didn't get from any other area of my life, or any other sport. If my parents would have forced me not to have those experiences I would have missed out on lessons and skills that I use to this day in my career.


    Very well said! That's exactly how I feel, I don't even need to expand on that. I've had more injuries doing other random things than I ever had playing football. Concussions and head injuries are a real issue, but more-so if you continue to play through them. You have to be smart, and if that means you have to quit early because of injury, you do it. But that doesn't mean to avoid it in the first place, especially when you learn so much. As you've said, sure, there are other sports. And as many sports as I played (wrestling, baseball, track & field, soccer) throughout the years, nothing ever meant more to me than football. If a kid wants to play badly enough, then football will likely mean a lot to them too. If that void can be filled with other things, such as other sports, or being in a band or club or something, then that's great too! But to limit your children just because you're trying to protect them can also have the potential to backfire. I completely understand where people are coming from, but I think you should let them choose, or at least have a MAJOR say in the decision. The potential for injury exists in every sport you play, and every car you get into, and every body of water you step into. Every lake. Every bike ride. Even every McDonald's happy meal that is eaten. We shouldn't allow ourselves to live our lives in fear of something that hasn't happened, especially when that something has the potential to build a foundation for a meaningful life of character.

    Again, I think the most important thing is to let your child have their own say in it, and to emphasize the importance of pulling out at any early signs of head injury. As with anything, there are definite negatives to playing football, but it's very arguable that the positives have the potential to drastically outweigh the negatives. By all means, if the kid has other interests that could fill this void, maybe push more towards that. But to say, "no way, you can't play football" is an entirely different thing. As parents, I know it's a difficult position to be in. But from my perspective, choice is what's important, even though there are risks. Life is a risk. It doesn't mean we have to stop living it, just so we can be safe all the time. What's the point of living it then, if we can't partake in things we enjoy? Oh, and furthermore- at some point if a kid wants to play bad enough, they're going to do it. It's probably a better idea to start them early, so that they get the fundamentals down so that they can play more safely. Who knows though, just another perspective!
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  • The last two posts are spot on in my opinion. I played 1 year in JR High and all 4 in HS. Being part of a team sport like football teaches so many life lessons as well pushes you to push yourself. Yea, it can be tough on the body and yes you can get concussions and or broken bones or torn ligaments. But, you can get the same injuries from most sports.

    My wife was really against letting our two sons play tackle so they played flag football for years. When my oldest son was 11 YO he talked my wife in to letting him play tackle. I tried earlier but my wife doesn't give a shit what I think. My wife said OK after several of my kids friends quit flag and started tackle football 3 years ago.

    Both of our kids have been in it since. We live in the unincorporated portion of the city of Snohomish. Football is serious business in this area and if kids want to be able to play in HS they need to play in the youth feeder league. This league is outside of the school district but all age groups in the area run the same offense and defense that is run in the HS they will go to. The JR HS teams coach doesn't run those systems so most kids don't play for the JR HS they go to. The HS coaches teach the volunteer coaches for this league so their is a real trickle down effect.

    The way the coaches look after kids today is much different from when I was a kid playing. They don't have smelling salts / capsules on the sidelines like they used to, they encourage drinking water instead of not allowing and if a kid shows signs of a concussion they pull him out of the game and he cant play again until he has doctors note saying he is OK to play.

    When I played, they didn't allow water at practice ( I went to a large HS in Sacramento, practice started in August, 2 a days, 110+ most days), and if you got your bell rung the coaches just yelled at you to get back out there. That isn't the case today.

    Flag football is a great way for your young kids to learn the game without the worry of concussions. If that's to risky, put your kids in band. JMHO.
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  • nategreat wrote:
    Again, I think the most important thing is to let your child have their own say in it, and to emphasize the importance of pulling out at any early signs of head injury.


    I'm all for teaching a child how to make smart decisions in life. Of course it will vary child to child, but a 6-7 year old should not be allowed to make the same decisions that a teenager should make.

    Ultimately, I believe parents should have final say.
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  • DTexHawk wrote:
    nategreat wrote:
    Again, I think the most important thing is to let your child have their own say in it, and to emphasize the importance of pulling out at any early signs of head injury.


    I'm all for teaching a child how to make smart decisions in life. Of course it will vary child to child, but a 6-7 year old should not be allowed to make the same decisions that a teenager should make.

    Ultimately, I believe parents should have final say.


    I'd agree with that. 6-7 is definitely too early for their own decisions, but I'd say more right around 10-12, maybe 13- right in in there somewhere, I think the decision becomes much more of a blurry line.
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  • I don't post here a ton anymore, but do still like to keep up on the forum and am always attracted to these discussions. I'm a physician, and specialize primarily in psychiatry but with an emphasis on the neurological aspects of these disorders as well. I'm not, by any means, primarily a 'concussion expert,' but it (and this) does fall within my particular subspecialty. Speaking in this role, I would say that concerns about the long-term safety of football, particularly from a 'brain health' perspective, are about more than just proper coaching and technique, and that I am not planning to allow my children to play unless it is absolutely the only sport, over a long period of time, that they are passionate about. As another poster above said, I do not believe 8 year old children can weigh the risks and benefits of the game, but we can. I love football, and I do believe in the many positive things it brings, but I believe there are other ways for your child to develop these.

    That being said, I also don't judge parents who make other decisions. This is a super tough one for a lot of families right now. Good luck!
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  • jkitsune wrote:I don't post here a ton anymore, but do still like to keep up on the forum and am always attracted to these discussions. I'm a physician, and specialize primarily in psychiatry but with an emphasis on the neurological aspects of these disorders as well. I'm not, by any means, primarily a 'concussion expert,' but it (and this) does fall within my particular subspecialty. Speaking in this role, I would say that concerns about the long-term safety of football, particularly from a 'brain health' perspective, are about more than just proper coaching and technique, and that I am not planning to allow my children to play unless it is absolutely the only sport, over a long period of time, that they are passionate about. As another poster above said, I do not believe 8 year old children can weigh the risks and benefits of the game, but we can. I love football, and I do believe in the many positive things it brings, but I believe there are other ways for your child to develop these.

    That being said, I also don't judge parents who make other decisions. This is a super tough one for a lot of families right now. Good luck!


    Very well put.

    Even the best skilled and trained professionals get into bad impacts with the best coaching in the world.

    At younger ages, even though the collisions are at lower speeds, the skills/techniques will also be much worse.
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  • DTexHawk wrote:
    jkitsune wrote:I don't post here a ton anymore, but do still like to keep up on the forum and am always attracted to these discussions. I'm a physician, and specialize primarily in psychiatry but with an emphasis on the neurological aspects of these disorders as well. I'm not, by any means, primarily a 'concussion expert,' but it (and this) does fall within my particular subspecialty. Speaking in this role, I would say that concerns about the long-term safety of football, particularly from a 'brain health' perspective, are about more than just proper coaching and technique, and that I am not planning to allow my children to play unless it is absolutely the only sport, over a long period of time, that they are passionate about. As another poster above said, I do not believe 8 year old children can weigh the risks and benefits of the game, but we can. I love football, and I do believe in the many positive things it brings, but I believe there are other ways for your child to develop these.

    That being said, I also don't judge parents who make other decisions. This is a super tough one for a lot of families right now. Good luck!


    Very well put.

    Even the best skilled and trained professionals get into bad impacts with the best coaching in the world.

    At younger ages, even though the collisions are at lower speeds, the skills/techniques will also be much worse.


    Also, most coaching about proper tackling is about protecting your neck - specifically, your spine. The angle of your impact and how you position your head has tremendous influence on the torque placed on your neck and down your spine, which can lead to catastrophic injuries. Any sudden deceleration of the head (no matter the technique) carries with it the risk not only of a concussion, but have sub-traumatic events which can, we think, accrue over time and lead to CTE or other forms of neurological or psychiatric dysfunction. These sorts of injuries can happen in any sport, certainly, but these sorts of sudden decelerations are much more part and parcel of football than others. Blocking, for instance, is every bit as much a risk as tackling, and happens to most players most every play.

    We don't really fully know why CTE happens or exactly how to predict or prevent it, but that isn't the same as saying we don't know any risk factors. For me, it's not a good balance of risk to benefit. Others' mileage may vary, and I respect that.
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  • HAWKAMANIA wrote:As my boys near the age of being able to play competitive sports my wife and I have been discussing the possibility of our sons playing football. The oldest is going to be eligible to play pop warner football in a few months when he turns five and he has already expressed interest in playing. He's done soccer, basketball, t-ball, swimming, and we've been to the driving range a few times. We've done all of those without hesitation, but football has me a little worried, though I hate to keep them from pursuing a sport they want to do. I'm leaning toward enrolling him when the time comes but I want to know what other fans of the game think. What do I need to look for? What reservations do you have? What experiences did you have? Am I overthinking the whole thing :D


    I think that with the new Heads Up program football has gotten safer.

    There has been a shift for player safety in the NFL and it has really been embraced at the grass roots level. I for one would have loved for my son to play football, but his soccer career wouldn't let him play another sport because he was training with a pro club at 13.

    He is no longer at the club and could play football but his high school doesn't have it available.

    Safety will always be a concern anytime a person plays a sport where collisions happen frequently. I played hockey my whole life and had my bell rung. My younger kid who plays soccer had a concussion too. It doesn't mean you shouldn't play a sport because of the risk, but that's my opinion as a parent who has raised 2 boys.
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