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Should Children Play Football?

Should Children Play Football?

It was the second concussion that made the decision an easy one for Brentwood parent Chris Hulshof. His son, Alex, had suffered his first concussion playing football as an 11-year-old, but Hulshof had been willing to give things a second chance, reasoning that the concussion had been a fluke play that wasn’t likely to occur again.Children football in Shanghai

Two years later, however, Alex took a wallop while playing for Sunset Middle School, suffering a helmet-to-helmet collision that resulted in a more severe concussion. This time, there was dizziness, sickness and a trip to the emergency room for precautionary measures.

“It wasn’t the little one the first one was, if any of them are ever really little,” Hulshoff says. “So, my wife (Valerie) and I decided at that point that ‘No, we’re not going to let him play (tackle football).’

“He keeps begging to play again. But I tell him I have to protect his head more than I’m willing to allow him to play football.”All over Tennessee and across the rest of America, parents are weighing decisions on the benefits of youth tackle football versus the health risks – specifically because of head injuries.

The concussion issue that’s gained so much attention on the NFL level – thanks to lawsuits, brain studies, movies and documentaries – appears to be making an impact on the youth level, as well.

An in-depth article on concussions in earlier this year stated that youth participation in football nationwide has declined 27.7 percent among kids aged 6-14 since 2010.

In addition, “Sports Illustrated’’ reported in March of 2016 that participation in high school football had declined nationwide in six of the previous seven years, and that it was down 2.5 percent overall since 2008-09.

But the trend of steering kids clear of contact football isn’t universal.

Brentwood’s Travis Dunlap, for instance, gave both of his kids the go-ahead to play tackle football this year.

An assistant professor of nursing at Vanderbilt University, Dunlap says he and his wife, Beth, were on the fence about their decision at first. But after making sure that team helmets, equipment and technique training were up to their standards, the couple gave their boys a thumbs-up.

Will, a 14-year-old heading into eighth grade, will be trying out for his school team this season, while Andrew, an 11-year-old going into sixth grade, chose to stick to flag football this year.

“We’re certainly aware of the risks and everything, but I think there’s risk in any sport,” Dunlap points out. “A lot of us parents had discussions about (letting the kids play tackle football). We’d talk about how we played it when we were younger, so we figured, ‘Let them try it.’’
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