Column: I won't have serious concerns letting my son play football

President Obama said he would have to think 'long and hard' about letting his son play football
Nate Thompson
Jan 29, 2013


What seems like such a simple response for some may be a much more difficult answer for others.

I'm talking about letting your son or daughter play a contact sport, which in this case, is football.

This is in response to the comments President Barack Obama made to the political magazine “New Republic” where he stated that he'd have to think “long and hard” over a decision to let his son play football.

Obviously, Obama doesn't have to make that decision, unless his daughters Malia Ann and Sasha raise some eyebrows and decided they want to snap on a helmet and shoulder pads.

Putting myself in that same situation, with a son who will turn 2 in May and another due in mid-March, it will be a decision I will likely have to make sometime down the road.

I assume this to be true, because currently, my son, Noah, throws himself at our couch at full speed like he's a blocking fullback, so it's only a natural assumption that one day he'll pursue the sport.

For myself, it was always a no-brainer to play football. It's a sport I grew up playing in back yards with my friends since we were in grade school. As youngsters, we marveled at the older kids playing under the Friday night lights and talked about the day that it would be our turn.

My parents weren't overly frightened by the fact that it was a violent game and injuries could happen. They were more concerned about me staying active and getting out of the house.

Honestly, at that time, I never knew what a concussion even was, let alone the serious effects it could have on your brain.

Now, with new-found research and awareness, there's probably not a high school football player in the state who isn't up-to-date on the condition.

There's entire new dialogue to discuss about violent contact sports, especially in light of the recent news concerning the late Junior Seau, an NFL star who played middle linebacker in the league for 20 seasons.

Research on Seau's brain revealed he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a type of chronic brain damage that is caused by repeated blows to the head and concussions. Players who suffer from the progressive disease have been linked to mood swings, depression, insomnia and, in later stages, dementia.

That's believed to be why Seau committed suicide in May 2012 — a shotgun blast to his chest.

Now, Seau's family and 2,000 other former NFL players are suing the league, claiming it’s at fault for the brain damage they suffered playing the game.

It's an absolutely frightening side effect associated with a sport that is arguably the most popular in the United States. I also believe it will give concerned parents more solid reasons not to let their children play football. Obviously, Obama might have been one of them.

With that said, I will not do the same.

Like my parents did, I understand the nature of the game. It is, in sense, controlled violence, but when coached properly and players execute that coaching correctly on the field, football is as safe as any other sport.

Really, serious injuries can occur in any sport. In my eight years at the Tribune, I've seen high school athletes suffer concussions in basketball, volleyball, soccer, and softball, to name a few. Those sports obviously don't receive the same bad rap as football, but there are still risks involved.

In a study released by the NCAA in September, its Injury Surveillance Program revealed that during the 2011 season, there were 2.5 concussions reported in college football for every 1,000 game-related exposures. In other fall sports — soccer, field hockey and volleyball — the numbers were less, but not by much — 1.9 concussions for every 1,000 exposures.

I asked one of my co-workers, advertising director Rob Francis, his thoughts on the matter, since he has two young sons who have played youth football with the Tri-Cities Mariners. He shared many of the same views I hold.

“There is a risk of injury with most any youth sport, or activity. I find soccer, skateboarding and snowboarding to pose a greater threat of injury to kids at a young age than football,” he said. “Even our pediatrician has said that he sees more soccer injuries than from any other sport.

“We might feel differently when our boys get older. If one of my boys did suffer a concussion, I would think long and hard before allowing them to go back out in the field.”

I think any parent would share the same sentiment. The greatest concern is the well-being of their child, regardless what sport he or she is playing. If a parent feels the need to pull their son from Young Bucs football, or any other team because they suffered an injury, then so be it. More power to them.

Actually, it's a decision I may make as well, if I feel it's necessary.

But because there is such a greater awareness with concussions, and players from the youth leagues on up are strongly urged not to play through it and immediately consult a trainer, I believe football can remain on solid ground and ultimately shed its label as an ultimate hazard to your health.



I'm just a little confused by the use of President Obama's concern with the game as your arguing point, but then wrap up by saying if your child is hurt, you could see yourself becoming concerned with the game as well.

Sam I Am

The issue with the numbers you cite is that in football there are, say, 100 game-related exposures per athlete per game, versus one or two in every other sport. Soccer and basketball tend to have more noticeable head injuries, which is probably why the pediatrician sees more of them; they tend to go undetected and undiagnosed in football, in part because people think the helmets will prevent serious damage (this just in: they don't).

Obviously this is a personal choice per family, and there will always be people willing to take the risk or let their children do so. But the concerns people have are valid, especially as the NFL fails to take more drastic preventative measures against the issue.

A couple of interesting articles (the first two are just about injuries in the NFL in general; the last is specific to brain trauma):

Reasons my kids won't be playing football.




Sam I Am - You might want to lock your kids indoors too.
According to The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Almost 50 percent of head injuries sustained in sports or recreational activities occur during bicycling, skateboarding, or skating incidents. Of course there's always gymnastics, ice skating, snowboarding, sledding, trampolines, hockey. All types of sports have a potential for injury, whether from the trauma of contact with other players or from overuse or misuse of a body part. The NFL is a completely different matter than youth sports. There is too much incentive for the player to stay in the game at any cost, and there is too much incentive for the team owner to ignore the best interest of the health of players. Medical evaluations of players should be done by third parties with no invested interest in the NFL, and should always be first and foremost about the health of the players.

deuce liti

I won't allow my son to play football. A bunch of guys running around in tights piling on top of each other only to smack each other's behinds and take showers together afterwards is not very appealing.


What are you implying?


No son of mine is gonna play any foos-ball


Foos-ball is the devil!!


Of course Obama won't paly football or allow his kids to play.
first off you have to have a spine to play football and second, his only exercise is picking on and bullying people and groups that don't agree with his policies.


Oh man...IF ONLY bullying was actually an actual exercise. Republicans would all be walking around here looking like Schwarzenegger circa 1984!


Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Off-topic comments.


A lot of people operating around in stockings adding on top of each other only to slap each other people's behinds and take bathrooms together afterwards is not very attractive. us soccer tickets


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