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What parents should consider when deciding if kids should play football
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A recent Washington Post piece detailed a mother's experience telling her son he couldn't play football, so as the season starts, what should parents know about football on the youth level? - photo by Payton Davis
It was a tight contest throughout with multiple changes in momentum, but in the end, mom Tracy Hahn-Burkett's side came out on top: She finally made her pre-teen son realize he wasn't allowed to participate in youth league football.

The experience Hahn-Burkett wrote about for The Washington Post isn't uncommon in the U.S. According to a Bloomberg poll, 50 percent of parents don't want their kids to play competitive football, with 43 percent supporting the decision and 7 percent unsure.

For Hahn-Burkett and her son, the concussion discussion lasted a year, she wrote for the Post.

"Over the course of the next 12 months, I explained to my son my concerns about the brain injuries now known to be commonly suffered in football," Hahn-Burkett wrote. "I talked to him about concussions and non-concussive head injuries, and about how even those NFL safety measures that have been implemented in recent years have yet to filter down to most youth-level tackle football leagues."

In the end, Hahn-Burkett's son accepted her opinion and moved on to participate in other sports like soccer and baseball, so as youths pad-up and take to the gridiron this fall, what are the pros and cons parents should take into account?

A major detail parents forget during these conversations is injuries concussions, notably occur in all sports, according to The New York Times.

Jane E. Brody of the Times reported high-school-age athletes sustained the most concussions in football, with 11.2 reported among 10,000 "athletic exposures," which Brody described as the number of practices and games athletes participate in.

The sports Hahn-Burkett let her son participate in, baseball and soccer, proved safer, according to the study, with 1.2 and 4.2 concussions reported respectively.

But the risk still exists, Brody wrote.

"It is worth noting that almost no sport is free of a concussion hazard, and that participating in sports has 'cognitive, physical, emotional and social benefits that outweigh everything,'" she reported, quoting Steven P. Broglio of the Neurotrauma Research Lab.

Parents should also note that the game is "evolving," Gary Lussier Jr. wrote for the Star Tribune.

It's true that if parents' children make it to the pros they'll risk facing long-term health issues, but statistically speaking, they're unlikely to make it to the professional level or even collegiate, according to the Star Tribune.

And if they are gifted, "learning proper techniques in an age-controlled league with ball-carrier weight limits will better prepare (them) for what lies ahead," Lussier reported.

Kelsey Dallas reported otherwise, however, citing a study that linked retired NFL players' cognitive impairment to what age they picked the game up at.

"Those former NFL players who started playing before 12 years old performed 'significantly worse' on every test measure after accounting for the total number of years played and the age of the players when they took the tests," The New York Times reported, according to Dallas. "Those players recalled fewer words from a list they had learned 15 minutes earlier, and their mental flexibility was diminished."

It might not hurt to consider what parents who have played at the highest level decide on the topic either, according to The Huffington Post.

Former pros like Tony Dorsett and Brian Urlacher said they'd encourage their kids to play, but former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman said as Hahn-Burkett noted, there's a lot to consider.

"I think that we're at a real crossroads as it relates to the grass roots of our sport, because if I had a 10-year-old boy, I don't know that I'd be real inclined to encourage him to go play football, in light of what we are learning from head injury," Aikman said, according to The Huffington Post.
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