Link copied to clipboard

Parents of boys who want to play football are well aware of the dangers. As Dr. Pietro Tonino of Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago says, “When you have two human beings collide at a high rate of speed — especially if one of them is much bigger than the other — then significant injuries are quite possible.”

But now that football practices are in full swing across the country, and as teams are prepping for the first games of the season, it’s important to be aware of the risks, not only inherent in the game itself but in attention to safety across the board.

A study published a decade ago in the journal Pediatrics found that children who play baseball are about as much at risk for injury as children who play football. But only 3% of baseball injuries were serious while nearly five times as many football injuries (14%) involved fractures, dislocations, and concussions. Yes, all sports are dangerous. But some are more dangerous than others.

The most common football injuries results in damage to knees, ankles, shoulders, and backs. Concussions, though less common, are more serious for children than they are for adult players. Not only are children more likely than adults to suffer concussions but it takes them longer to heal than it takes adults and the damage may impair brain development – development that continues through late adolescence into the early 20s.

Tonino advises parents to pay close attention to practices as well as to what goes on in games. Tonino’s study published in Physician and Sports Medicine reported that high school football games typically have inadequate medical staffing. Only 10% of Chicago high school games have a physician on the sidelines and only 8.5% had even an athletic trainer, though 89% had a paramedic available (usually in a parked ambulance). But even though supervision at games was lacking, supervision at practices was even less. Tonino found that no school had a physician or paramedic present during practices and only one had an athletic trainer.

Parents who do let their children play football should watch for these things, at practices as well as at games:

Tonino says, “I don’t believe it is worth the risk. So I advise parents to try to steer their children to alternative sports. We are just beginning to understand the long-term consequences of injuries sustained at young ages.”

If you decide to let your child play, play it smart. Don’t jeopardize his health, his future and maybe even his life by keeping quiet when you should speak up.

© 2013, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Ask for Dr. Anderson’s new book, Developmentally Appropriate Parenting, at your favorite bookstore.

When I bought my then-middle-school son an electric guitar for his birthday, he was upset. He said he “didn’t want the commitment.” Although this kid grew up to become a superb guitarist and although music is an important part of his life as an adult, his first thought, obviously, was “What are you trying to get me into?”

Oh, dear.

It’s easy to overplay your hand when you want the best for your kids. It’s easy to appear to kids like the ancient Greeks who gave their enemies a wonderful statue of a horse, only to have this “gift” open and release a horde of soldiers. Your best efforts to understand your children’s talents and provide the right tool at the right time to release this potential can backfire. You can be viewed suspiciously. Is this gift a Trojan horse?

Any time we tell children, “If you loved me, you’d do what I want,” we interfere with their independence. Any time we even imply that message or make children think that message, we hold them hostage to our will.

And that, you’ll recall, is not what you want to do. You want your kids to grow up, become masters of their universes, and leave home for lovely lives of their own.

It’s easy to inflict guilt. When my boys wanted to spend their allowance, my stock answer used to be, “If that’s what you really want.” I didn’t intend to question their ability to make decisions (at least I don’t think I did). But that was the effect. But it seemed to my kids that I wanted them to guess what I was thinking about how to spend their money, not figure it out on their own. One of my boys finally told me to cut it out and I came to my senses.

So your gifts should contain no conquering hordes. You must be prepared for your efforts to be rejected or tried and discarded. Only your kids know if what you’ve offered fits who they are and what they’re prepared to try today. The light you’re trying to fan into brightness might not be ready to shine. You can only offer. It’s your kids who have to supply the commitment.

So your gift (of a guitar, of Spanish lessons, or of damp Saturdays spent cheering from the soccer sidelines) comes with no strings attached. No guilt trip gets laid on if the gift is later set aside.

You are committed, not to the gift, but to your child.

© 2012, Patricia Nan Anderson.  All rights reserved.