Strong views voiced on whether competitive football is good for children

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 5 2014 5:50 a.m. MST

Trae Faumui concentrates on the ball as he takes part in the Dixon Bulldogs little league football practice in Provo. As much of the recent reporting on head injuries in football has focused on legal action taken against the NFL, a couple of authors are taking a look at the toll America's favorite sport is taking on its youngest players.

Scott G. Winterton, Dnews

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As much of the recent reporting on head injuries in football has focused on legal action taken against the NFL, a couple of authors are taking a look at the toll America's favorite sport is taking on its youngest players.

In an article for The Atlantic, Greg Easterbrook, author of the book "The King of Sports: Football's Impact on America," wrote that Americans don't understand the physical risks and demands football poses on toddlers and youth.

"Focusing on the grown men of the NFL is the wrong way to think about this sport’s impact on society," Easterbrook wrote. "Ninety-eight percent of football players are tykes, tweens and teens who, legally, are children; who assume all the risks for none of the gain; who emphatically do not 'know what they are buying into.' "

Easterbrook referenced a comment by President Obama in an interview with The New Yorker in which he remarked that he wouldn't let his son play football, because of the dangers involved.

Easterbrook and Obama are not alone in their opinion. Time's TV critic James Poniewozik pointed to the TV show "Friday Night Tykes" as an example of what kids as young as 8 are put through to succeed in the sport.

The show, which documents a competitive youth football league in San Antonio, shows kids who are forced to run until they vomit and coaches constantly telling players they're worthless — to name a few scenarios that Poniewozik said are not good for kids of such a young age.

Also weighing in on the topic of youth football, reporters for Headline News asked eight Super Bowl players — four from each team that played in Sunday's NFL championship — if they would let their children play football, given the research about head and other injuries that players can get playing football. All eight said that they would let their young kids play football.

"If they have a heart and passion for football, I'd love for them to be able to play it," Ben Garland of the Denver Broncos told Headline News. "Every sport has a risk. But to do something they have a passion for? More power to them."

Furthermore, if the people of New Jersey are any indication of the opinion of the U.S. population, youth football isn't going away anytime soon. Poll results from the Fairleigh Dickinson University released Jan. 23 showed that 80 percent of the people in the state support youth football leagues, according to the Star Ledger.

Sam Clemence works as an editorial assistant with the opinion section staff and as a reporter for the enterprise team.

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