“The NFL has given everybody 765 million reasons why you don’t want to play football.” ~ Harry Carson, New York Giants 1976-1988
In 2008, I remember hearing a doctor of psychology tell a class of young students, “If you’re playing football in the hopes of getting a scholarship to pay for your education, you’re better off to quit and take out student loans.” This was the first I heard of the health issues that those who play contact sports face, an issue the NFL has been “holding,” it appears, since 1994.
Last year a preliminary $765 million dollar settlement was made as a result of a class action lawsuit of over 5000 football players which will benefit roughly 18,000 retired players and their beneficiaries. The funds will be set aside for damages to cover every player who may need aid for health damages from concussions. Sadly, for some, the news of the detrimental affects of “blows to the head” comes too late. Those who have committed suicide, are dealing with major depression, have early onset dementia or Alzheimer’s, and brain degeneration from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).
I’ll admit, I’ve never been a fan of football. Like boxing, hockey, and other contact sports, I have trouble watching unnecessary physical aggression to one’s body. But this post is not about whether or not I’m a fan of the game. It’s about the affect of the sport on the brain of the player, especially the young child. Next week Super Bowl 49 will be televised. Last year about 7 out of 10 households that were watching TV tuned into the Super Bowl according to television ratings service Nielsen. Nielsen said the game averaged 111.5 million viewers, a record for a U.S. television program. And although I know I’m not the majority, as a mental health advocate, I am compelled to present these issues and share the ongoing research relating to the football player’s brain. Therefore, if you are a parent of a child interested in playing football or another contact sport, I highly suggest you view Frontline’s documentary League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis, so that when you do watch the “big game” you can open up a conversation with your kids. A conversation on what these players and their families are sacrificing.
As parents we want the best for our kids, yet sometimes we just don’t have the information we need to make an educated decision. Being a parent is a tough job, one most don’t get formal training for. Instead we are guided by unconscious forces that blur our vision, for example, the pressure from others, the media, unhealthy reactions from our past, faulty belief systems, or in this case, influences of a sport gone bad.
One might say, hey, do you know what those guys make in a year? Well, yes, I do. The the average NFL player makes about 2 million a year. Consequently, based on a 2013 article, they are the lowest paid of the top four sports. In other cases I would say this is a lot of money, but not when it comes to the irreparable damage on the brain.
Here’s the hardest hitting news. Younger kids have proportionately larger heads and weak necks, therefore their ability to sustain a blow to the head is not great. As a matter of fact, we now know that it’s not just concussions that are damaging, but also the continual jolts to the brain day after day, in practices and games.
In addition, the human brain does not fully develop until the mid or late-20s with the last areas to develop those dealing with tasks such as reasoning, decision-making, problem-solving, planning, holding things in mind, switching between tasks, as well as social cognitive abilities, such as making moral judgments or understanding the subtle social intentions of other people.
The child’s brain is a sensitive organ and I encourage you not to just take my word, but to get the details in The Dana Foundation’s article Sports Concussions and the Immature Brain and hear directly from former players.
Parents please consider this information before enrolling your child in a hard contact sport. Your child’s brain is their most valuable asset and I hope this post helps you to nurture and protect it for a lifetime.
Cathi Curen © 2015
Cathi Curen, is a holistic coach, speaker, event organizer, and host of Holistic Children Radio. She is the author of the “Me + U” Interactive Journal Series which helps others to communicate respectively in their own individualized way.
For additional information visit: http://www.cathicuren.com