Look. Listen. Decide. On the debate to let my son play football.

My granddaddy often said to me, “Look. Listen. Decide.” He had this efficiency with dialog that could sum up just about anything. His words have stayed with me since I was 10 years old. As much as possible I apply them to everything including career, family, and my love of sports.

I grew up watching and listening to sports on television and radio. The television sound and picture wasn’t always reliable in our modest, cable-lacking, small town N.Y. home. By the age of 12, I grew tired of having to guess what the announcers were saying and just started watching most games on mute. My granddaddy taught me so much about baseball during our fishing trips that I was able to transfer lessons of how to enjoy a game to any sport, especially football. I really do like figuring out defensive schemes by turning the sound down. My first discussion with Philip was about how I was annoyed with the Rams poor execution of a 4-3 defense.

I love football, you guys. I love the gamesmanship displayed on both sides of the ball. Sure, scoring is fun and necessary, but I’ll take a gutty, grimy, defense over a pretty offense any day of the week. Hit and hit em hard is what I say. Except..well, except when it comes to my own children. Bink has already resolved to find another non-contact sport to pursue. Which brings me to Nings. He’s his father’s only hope of continuing a tradition of gridiron engagement. Philip enjoyed playing on a state ranked team in high school and had the opportunity to play Division I in college. It’s in him.

As a mom, my job is to protect the brain; even if that means the heart doesn’t agree. My decision isn’t governed by emotion. My kids can experience sports-related injuries no matter what they choose to take up. However, the science says football has the highest percentages of head injuries in sports. Or, does it?

Despite growing awareness of sports-related concussions and campaigns to educate athletes, coaches, physicians, and parents of young athletes about concussions confusion and controversy persist. While some current studies provide useful information, most is centered around football, while other sports go undiscussed.  Especially those with repetitive head impacts like ice hockey, lacrosse, and soccer.

sports-head-injury-chartIn 2013, the PBS series Frontline produced a graphic illustrating reported head injuries in high school and
college. (Very little is known about such in children who begin playing sports at the elementary level.) The data shows rates per 10,000 games and practices. If you add up the numbers you’ll see soccer has the highest amount of head injuries for girls. Many experts attribute concussions in soccer to improper technique when heading the ball and poor neck strength. Soccer families will tell you most technique is improper while kids are learning to play the game.

So, why is there so much emphasis on football related head injuries? Some of the attention is due to high profile cases against the NFL and the league’s cover-up of medical research on concussions and their link to brain disease. Most notably, the passing of Hall of Fame inductee Junior Seau. With Seau’s enshrinement in the 2015 class, the Pro Football Hall of Fame cited a policy that was put in place just five years ago, saying that family members of deceased Hall of Famers could not speak. They would simply be part of the video presentation as was the case with Seau’s daughter Sydney. The league’s misguided attempt to shield itself from further concussion talk did the exact opposite when public outcry called foul during the weeks leading  up to the ceremony.

I’m not saying football doesn’t deserve its share of scrutiny in the concussion argument. What I am saying is when it comes to youth sports the conversation should widen to others with repetitive head impacts. The more we “look and listen” the better informed our decisions become.

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