To the editor:
Dear Mr. Olson,
I could not disagree more with your defense of youth football. It is a major health problem, and as they start kids younger and younger, it only gets worse and worse.
When and where I grew up, there was no youth football; we started in eighth grade. I played for three years, and as a result, my back has hurt every day since I was 15 (that's almost 50 years now) and has been operated on twice. My older brother played four years; he has not yet needed surgery, but has been in pain longer than I. Our younger brother went on to play two years of college ball; he has had both knees replaced (one twice), several discs fused, needs a shoulder replacement for the bone but is too deteriorated in the muscle to be able to, and, at 58, has been on disability for almost 10 years now (and should have been years sooner).
This is all from football.
These problems are quite common from high school and college football, and are only exacerbated when the injuries start younger. No human body was made to take that kind of punishment, but especially not growing bodies.
I haven't even addressed the tragedy of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). That in itself should be sufficient reason for any thinking parent to keep their child far away from a football field.
Studies suggest as many as 75 percent of youth football participants will suffer a concussion over the course of a season – but that is the tip of the iceberg. The greatest cause of CTE is not concussion, but repeated smaller impacts to the head, something that cannot be removed from football.
To send a child onto a football field is an open invitation to irreparable brain damage – perhaps not immediate and catastrophic damage, but permanent and devastating damage none the less.
The slower-developing damage is, in fact, the greater danger, as the signs might well not manifest for years, or even decades after the on-going injuries stopped.
Did I enjoy playing football? You bet! But it was the stupidest thing I ever did (and it had some stiff competition for the title, I must confess).
The problem with the proposed Duerson Law is that it is a halfway measure. A much more appropriate law would ban football before high school, and in any state-supported institution.