Will You Let Your Kid Play Youth Football?
Thousands of parents face that question every year.
Unless you reside in the bottom of the ocean, you’ve heard about the concussion problem in professional and college football. Former athletes have filed billion-dollar class-action lawsuits claiming that football-related concussions have ruined their lives by irreparably damaging their brains.
They claim these injuries have caused memory loss, depression, dementia and even suicide.
Football Concussion Dispute Hits High Schools
Now, the controversy has reached the high schools.
For example, 29-year old Daniel Bukal, who used to play high school football in Illinois, has filed a class-action lawsuit against the Illinois High School Association. The action claims that the IHSA doesn’t properly protect students against the brain damage concussions can cause.
The former high school football player says that he had experienced many concussions and now suffers from migraines and memory loss.
So he sued.
A December 2014 CNN article quoted Bukal’s lawyer, Joseph Siprut, as saying, “Our goal is to bring the fight to the high school level.” For now, the attorney has brought action only against the , but says he plans to sue every state high school football association in the country.
Bukal’s suit claims that the IHSA “does not mandate specific guidelines or rules on managing student-athlete concussions and head injuries,” and that it “fails to mandate the removal of athletes who have appeared to suffer in practice.”
So what does Bukal want?
Surprisingly, he doesn’t seek any money. However, the plaintiff does want the court to oversee the IHSA’s management of high school football players’ concussion injuries.
The suit also calls for medical personnel to attend all high school football games and practices.
Finally, the legal action demands that someone test all high school footballers for concussion-related symptoms if they played in 2002 or later.
The IHSA Disagrees
The IHSA is fighting the lawsuit by pleading poverty, among other things.
In responding to the suit, that organization said if Bukal wins, the poorer school districts will scrap their football programs due to lack of money, and that includes Chicago. Bakul’s court action is “a misguided effort that threatens high school football.”
The IHSA also asks who will shoulder the responsibility for obeying the court’s mandates should Bukal prevail.
Finally, the organization wants to know what happens if the court orders aren’t carried out. Will the judge, “sanction the IHSA? The local school board? The principal? The athletic director? The coaches? All of the above?”
You’ve now read the lawyers’ arguments and seen other stories about this issue. Still you might not have enough information to decide whether or not to let your kids play America’s favorite sport.
If you still feel confused about what to do, maybe the opinions of professional football players can help you settle the issue.
Will professional footballers let their kids play the game?
In a December 2014 online issue of the Daily Intelligencer, former Dallas Cowboy’s quarterback Troy Aikman said, “I think that we’re at a real crossroads, as it relates to the grassroots 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.”
Former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw expressed a much stronger opinion. “If I had a son today, and I would say this to all our audience and our viewers out there, I would not let him play football.”
End of story? Well, not quite.
Can youth football help boys grow into better men?
Yes, according to the people who wrote an August 2013 article for USAFootball.com.
The commentary lists character-building traits our children can learn from playing “America’s game.”
• It’s a team sport, just like life. By playing football, kids learn to work together to accomplish their goals. “(The) great teams are united, like the states we call home.”
• And as in life, winning takes effort. The easy way rarely works.
• “By playing this sport, young athletes learn football’s timeless qualities of leadership, responsibility, perseverance and teamwork.”
In sum, USAFootball’s argument, “There’s no better time to be a part of the game than right now.”
Where do you stand?
Now that you’ve considered both sides’ arguments, what’s your decision? Will you let your kid play football?
An IBM commercial that ran on televised football games many years ago put it best. In it, the announcer proclaimed, “You make the call.”