Opinion column: Is tackle football safe for pre-high schoolers?


Should tackle football be banned for children 12 to 14 years and under? A heap of controversy surrounds this topic. Those are fighting words! That’s how football fans and football fanatics may respond. Or pigskin-minded parents and coaches.

A 2018 study published in The Journal of Pediatrics summarizes the research team’s key findings: concussion rates among football players ages 5-14 were higher than previously reported, with five out of every 100 youth, or 5 percent, sustaining a football-related concussion each season. www.jpeds.com.

“Removing tackling from football altogether would likely lead to a decrease in the incidence of overall injuries, severe injuries, catastrophic injuries, and concussions. The American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes, however, that the removal of tackling from football would lead to a fundamental change in the way the game is played. Participants in football must decide whether the potential health risks of sustaining these injuries are outweighed by the recreational benefits associated with proper tackling.” That’s the response from The American Academy of Pediatrics. Are they wimping out or not overreacting?

An estimated, 283,000 children seek care in U.S. emergency departments each year for a sports- or recreation-related traumatic brain injury. TBIs sustained in contact sports account for approximately 45 percent of these visits. Football, bicycling, basketball, playground activities, and soccer account for the highest number of emergency department visits. www.cdc.gov.

The Flag Football Under 14 campaign was launched in 2018 to educate parents that tackle football is an inappropriate activity for children under the age 14. Flag Football Under 14 is part of the Concussion Legacy Foundation’s Don’t Hit Kids initiative to prevent purposeful repetitive brain trauma for children before age 14.

Chris Nowinski completed a PhD in behavioral neuroscience after concussions suffered as a college football player and professional wrestler ended his athletic career. He is the co-founder and CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation. Now, isn’t that interesting.

Should tackle football be banned for children 12 years and under in Ohio? Bills seeking to ban tackle football for kids under 12 or 14 have been proposed — and failed — in five states, according to a 2019 article in USA Today.

Will any brave Ohio politicians come forward and sponsor a tackle football ban bill for children? Would he/she be booed off the voting ticket? Would Ohio residents take them out of the re-election game? And throw hot dogs and apple pies at them.

Dave Briggs, reporter and sports writer for the Toledo Blade writes: “As we strive to preserve this great game for future generations, kids with developing brains have no business taking hundreds of hits to the head every season. Let’s trade the pads for flags until high school.” Peruse his informative column at www.toledoblade.com.

Whether tackle football is banned or not, the decision comes down to parents. I’ve talked to parents on both sides of the debate. According to my unofficial study, more mothers are in favor of flag football and more fathers poo-poo a ban on tackle football. The educated decision needs to come from parents, pediatricians, neurologists, coaches, and researchers.

I have never played football. I am not a big fan of football. Its too violent for me, with too much competition and overpaid players. Yes, I occasionally watch a few minutes of The Ohio State Buckeye games on TV. I’ve watched a few Fox NFL pregame shows with my hubby because Terry, Howie, Michael, and Jimmy are so funny when together. If I was single and he was single, I might consider getting into a huddle with Howie Long.

But, I would not set in the heat, the rain, or the snow to watch grown men running around smashing into each other. My favorite thing about Super Bowl Sunday is the Puppy Bowl on the Animal Planet channel. And the next thing is my scrumptious nachos recipe with homemade salsa. Touchdown for the salsa sensation!

So, I agree with Dave Briggs. Ban tackle football for children under 14 years of age in all states. Bring out the flags. Save the brain!

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Reach Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. She lives in Southern Ohio.

Reach Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. She lives in Southern Ohio.