Concussions sustained from the rough tackles and hard hits of pro football have been all over the news recently. Players and the public are becoming more educated on the harmful and lasting effects of concussions, and the NFL has been taking measures to increase awareness and treatment of concussions. But while a 250 lb linebacker can no doubt cause major damage to anyone he tackles, so can the 50 lb player that your child may be up against.
It’s especially dangerous for children to play tackle football. Children have thin necks, small bodies, and still-developing brains, which are not built to withstand some of the blows they can receive. Children’s developing brains are particularly tender and sensitive to trauma, and a hard tackle can create a damaging whiplash effect.
There are many pros and cons to letting your child play football, and it’s a decision that should be given a lot of thought and consideration. If you do decide to let your child play, follow these basic safety measures to help protect them from the possibility of a concussion.
Keep Them in a Flag Football League As Long As Possible
While football can help children develop great athletic skill, teamwork, and sportsmanship, there is a huge risk in letting your child play tackle football. A safer option is to keep your children in a flag football league for as long as possible. They can still develop running, passing, and catching skills, and save the tackling until they are a little stronger. (If your child isn’t happy with this plan, let them know that Peyton and Eli Manning were not allowed to play tackle football until seventh grade, and Tom Brady didn’t play tackle until ninth!)
Check out the Consolidated Football Federation for flag football opportunities in Johnston County.
Make Sure They Are Taught and Practice Safe Tackles
If you child does join a tackle football league, make sure they are taught and practice safe ways to tackle. USA Football has developed the Heads Up Tackling program to train coaches on ways to teach safe tackling. It focuses on teaching young players how to properly position their bodies and tackle an opponent while minimizing helmet contact. Programs like this are vital to ensuring the safety of youth players and teaching them fundamentals to use throughout their football career.
Provide Them with Proper Safety Equipment
Make sure your child has the correct size helmet and that they wear it properly. Most helmets come with inflatable pads that can be adjusted for optimum comfort and safety. Parents can easily check the fit of their child’s helmet by pressing down on the top of it – the helmet should exert pressure onto the crown of the player’s head, not the brow.
Know How to Recognize and Respond to a Concussion
If your child takes a hard hit to the head during a game, the coach should immediately remove them from the game and check for signs of a concussion, including:
- Appears dazed or confused
- Problems concentrating or remembering details
- Behavior or personality changes
- Loss of consciousness
- Sensitivity to light and noise
- Headache or blurry vision
- Nausea or vomiting
- Dizziness or problems balancing
If a coach and/or parent suspects a possible concussion, the child should immediately receive medical attention and should only return to the game if they have been cleared to play by a healthcare professional. Depending on the severity of the concussion, a child may recover after a few days of rest at home, or they may require follow-up appointments with brain specialists and prolonged absence from sports.
If your child appears to be suffering from severe concussion symptoms, call 9-1-1 or take them to the closest emergency department.