Football has been in the news a lot lately, with the NFL attracting attention for covering up concussion stories and brain injuries. The same is happening with sports like rugby and boxing and change is taking place throughout the sporting world.
Boxing, rugby and football are taking steps to make changes that will ensure these games remain popular at all levels. In boxing, some of the game’s biggest stars, including Irish World Champion Carl Frampton, are reducing the number of sparring sessions they have to limit brain damage; in football they are making head-to-head contact illegal; and in rugby they have instigated head-injury-assessments during games.
But have these steps actually helped and just how dangerous are sport like this and sports in general? It’s a question more parents are asking and one they should know the answer to before they sign their kids up.
Are Any Sports Safe for Kids
Are there any safe sports? Well, not really, at least not entirely. And definitely not football. In fact, next to women’s ice hockey, football is the sport with the most concussions per player per year. It’s followed closely by men’s ice hockey.
Concussions aren’t the only danger, of course. What about broken bones from gymnastics or stress fractures from running track? Let’s not forget about the missing teeth from baseball or the rugby induced dislocations? It seems the only safe sport is swimming. But then, there’s that drowning thing.
American football: American football, for kids, is extremely dangerous. Yes, the kids wear helmets and look like the Marshmallow Man in their uniforms, but the fact is that their brains can’t withstand the constant bumps. They are far more susceptible to serious brain injuries, but this is a problem that can be seen at all levels.
Rugby: This is similarly dangerous for kids. If you’re from the United States, you might not get how rugby is different from football. Instead of explaining here, I’d encourage you to research the differences. Rugby injuries are three times higher than those incurred during a soccer match, and most of the victims are between 8 and 10 years of age.
There’s no helmet that can prevent brain injury. Sadly, 40 of every 10,000 youth football players suffer concussion. Even if the injury is not a concussion, tackle football can cause a condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy. This condition will degenerate the brain tissue, causing confusion, impulse control problems and memory loss. No, thanks.
Hockey: Hockey is ridiculously dangerous. It, like football, is in the top 10 most dangerous sports for kids. For every 100 kids who play hockey, two will end up in the ER. That equates to about 20,000 kids each year. However, some countries are making changes to kids’ hockey. In Canada, body checking was disallowed for kids under 13. This resulted in an approximately 50% cut in the instance of injuries. That said, check with the league and find out the rules before you sign your kids up.
Basketball: Finally, basketball is one of the most dangerous sports for young athletes. There are an estimated 200,000 injuries each year, ranging from concussion to eye injuries. If you have daughters, you should know that girls are actually more susceptible to injuries from basketball, particularly lasting ones like knee injuries. Sprains and strains are also common.
However, with the exception of knee and eye injuries, most basketball injuries are minor. Strains and sprains are fairly quick to rebound. All things considered, basketball is a much safer sport than are hockey and football.
Boxing Deaths: Previously seen as a great way to get a kid active and disciplined, a spate of recent boxing deaths have turned people against the sport. As explained in this guide many of the issues are in the lower ranks and stem from a lack of medical care at all levels, with concussed fighters being allowed to fight and with fights not being stopped when they should. But it goes without saying that if you pummel someone for 36 minutes then there is going to be a risk of brain injury.
I personally love boxing and consider myself an aficionado of the sport. But I would never get into the ring myself and wouldn’t let my kids do it. I would certainly let them train and maybe even spar on occasion, but it’s taking a risk to step-up to professional fighting.
Soccer: So what about soccer, surely that’s safe? Well there are major concerns here as well. In recent years there have been doubts regarding the safety of heading the ball, something that has played a major role in the game since the beginning. This is so much of a worry, in fact, that kids’ coaches are now trying to take it out of the game at lower levels. And then you have the issue with fad-turf pitches, which are said to cause cancer and many other horrible illnesses.
All sport can be dangerous and I’m not just saying that because I’m a lazy writer who thinks that any form of physical exercise is wrong. I actually love sports … as long as I’m watching them and not playing. For me, the perfect kicker game is not soccer but foosball. The most up-tempo I get is playing FIFA and the only sport I really commit to is snooker.
You shouldn’t do as I do just to avoid major risks though. Kids need sport to stay fit and healthy, because diabetes, high blood pressure and heart problems are bigger issues than occasional breaks and strains. You just have to make sure that you balance the risks and understand all potential issues, because you can not trust your school or local coach to do that for you.