Defending Our Game
If you have not been camping out under a rock for the last few months, you know our game is under attack. The game we love and devote so much time to in order that our sons and players can gain the life lessons most of us learned from the game, being being viciously assaulted on many fronts. Some are calling for an out right ban on youth football due to the concussion issue or not allowing kids to play until age 13. One of the major problems in today's society is that perception is reality and that perception is shaped by those who are yelling the Loudest and the most often.
In all fairness, there are football people who did offer up some kindling to get this firestorm started. The NFL and it's "Bountygate" scandal did not do the game any favors. While the youth game is not the NFL, many soccer moms think that youth football is a microcosm of the NFL and what happens in little Johnny's league is just a mini version of what happens in the NFL. We also had some youth coaches who did not understand how to teach safe blocking and tackling or how to recognize concussions. While those coaches are rare today, their legacy lives on. And like it or not, soccer moms make a lot of decisions on whether little Johnny is allowed to play youth football or not.
As most of you are well aware, Bountygate is the least of our worries. The concussion issue is what is dominating the airwaves these days. Concussion diagnosis and prevention has been a point of emphasis for the last 2-3 years. More fuel to that fire was added when Hall of Fame player Junior Seau died of an apprehensive suicide last week. Speculation was that his depression and subsequent suicide was caused by concussion issues. The Seau lawsuit was a tragedy, by all accounts Junior was a solid citizen. However there is no evidence that discussions played a role in his death or even that suicide rates are higher among NFL players than the general population. It should be noted that Samoans have one of, if not the highest rate rate in the world and the US has a very high rate rate compared to other developed nations.
Another interesting scientifically verified statistic is that former NFL players live much longer than the general population. Did you have any idea that was a verified truth? Many would have you believe that all these former NFL players break down and die prematurely in their 50's. Well that is not the case at all, they are OUTLIVING the general population. A study was commissioned by the players union to study this very topic.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Niosh), began it's data collection in 1990 and released its findings in January, 2012. They studied 3,439 players who were in the NFL for five seasons or more. They found a lower death rate among former NFL players than among men in the general population – the institute had expected to find that 625 members of the group it studied would be dead based on estimates from the general population, but instead found that 334 of the Retired players had died. Yes, those alive were almost DOUBLE the number compared to the general population. These numbers are amazing considering the number of 300 lb plus players and African-American players who are in the NFL, since these groups typically have much higher early mortality rates than the general population. So the next time someone spouts off that National Inquirer like "stat" that NFL players are all dying prematurally in their 50's, please set them straight with the facts.
When it comes to youth football, again it's an entirely different game. We do not have 300 lb players who can run 4.8 40 yard dashes and who can bench press 225 lbs 35 times. Statistics say that 70% of youth players will not play High School football, let alone be part of the 2-3% that go on to college Football or be one of the 1 in 20,000- 30,000 to go on to play in the NFL. The NFL is the cream of the cream of the cream of the crop, genetic freaks who have honed their bodies into athletic machines capable of inflating significant hits to one another. But the NFL players abilities have very little correlation to what the average 10 year old can do with his body and in turn to other players.
Mayo Clinic Study
In fact the Mayo Clinic did a study of 913 youth football players on 42 different teams age 9-13. Back in 1997 they found that "most injuries that occurred were mild and that youth football injuries were uncommon." According to Mayo Clinic spokesman Michael J. Stuart MD the findings shown that "the risk of injury in youth football does not appear greater than the risk associated with other recreational or competitive sports." Most of the injuries were mild and the most common type was a contusion, which occurred in 33 players. Four injuries (fractures involving the ankle growth plate) were such that they pretended players from No player required hospitalization or surgery. Again scientific fact flies in the face of those who would want you to believe that you are somehow an irresponsible Neanderthal parent if you want your son to play youth football.
Most of us coach youth football because the game did something for us and we want to pass that same thing onto others. We want kids to experience being part of a team, teamwork, perseverance, selflessness, goal setting, commitment, hard work, making friends, being coachable, delayed gratification, humility, grace, overcoming obstacles, competition, having fun and much more. There are people out there who for whatever reason neither do not understand what youth football is about, had a bad experience from a "bad apple" program or coach or simply oppose kids learning and embracing some of those traditional character traits listed above. Do not let the haters and naysayers dominate the "debate." Know the facts and share the data so people can make legitimate and honest decisions about their child's involvement in youth football. An additional footnote, I've coached youth football for over 25 years and not a single one of my players have ever been diagnosed with a conversation from anything they did on the football field.