This past Thursday my wife and I attended an NFL football game between the New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins. Her team, The Patriots, made my Dolphins look like a bunch of stooges, but one of the worst moments of the game came when my star defensive end, Cameron Wake, was helped off the field after suffering a season ending achilles tendon rupture.
Sunday’s games featured more of the same. Concussions, torn up knees, and ankle injuries took out so many players that even the NFL’s own website called it a “brutal” day. I can’t remember watching a week where so many of the headlines revolved around required surgeries.
It was the kind of week that makes me glad I have girls. As much as I love the game, I’m not sure that I would want my son playing it.
This season five high school players have died from injuries sustained during play, the same number as last year. A small percentage of the million kids who will suit up for high school games this year, but still not something regularly seen in other sports. I’m not including those who fell to dehydration, undiagnosed heart conditions, or asthma related incidents as these could happen at any time, with any physical activity. Just those violent collisions on the field where somebody’s son doesn’t get back up.
Nothing definitive can be said about the long term effects of concussions or repetitive contact to the head on developing brain tissue, but research on retired NFL players leads one to believe that it isn’t good.
I hold no judgement against parents of football players. Our good friend is a coach and many of our friends have kids that play. I spend too much money on merchandise and tickets and watch the games three days a week. To tell my hypothetical son that he couldn’t play would be to invite accusations of hypocrisy that I wouldn’t be able to deny. It’s a conversation I’m glad I don’t have to have.
Kayla gave softball a try, but decided to stick with soccer and dance, both activities her little sister is also involved in. As she gets older, Alaina will be introduced to other sports. What she chooses to stick with will be up to her but she will be encouraged to try new things and stay active.
With my luck, she’ll choose cage fighting.