Is playing football good for kids?

The high school football season has begun in Minnesota. (MPR photo/Tom Weber)
“Parents who are looking for authoritative answers to their questions about the safety of youth football, hockey and other sports may just have to wait,” reports the Daily Circuit blog.

“Responding to concerns about the long-term effects of concussions and other injuries, people who work in youth sports are devising ways to make football safer. The trouble is, they don’t know how serious the problem is or whether those initiatives will work.”

“Coaching improvements and teaching proper tackling technique is probably the best way to try to mitigate some of these injuries,” said Thomas Dompier, whose firm does data analysis of sports injuries. Thomas said. But he added, “The whole concept of teaching new tackling techniques is very new. It hasn’t been studied yet.”

Former Viking John Swain, who coaches high school football and represents the Heads Up Football program, pointed out that all contact sports cause injuries.

“Statistics state that you get more kids who are actually injured riding their bike or skateboarding than actual football,” Swain said.

Dompier agreed. “As John said, there’s risk in every sport, and there are other activities like skateboarding and some others that actually result in more deaths and catastrophic injuries. I think this is a sport problem, not just a football problem.

Today’s Question: Is playing football good for kids?

  • Gary F

    Yes. It is a contact sport and yes, there is a risk of getting hurt. Life is dangerous. The goal of a risk free Utopian society is naive.

    And yes, kids should be playing football.

    Football is a great combination of developing both individual and team skills. Each person must execute for the team to be successful. Each person must fill a task that doesn’t always result in glory. Only a few people can actually score the points but each person in responsible for that touchdown. Yes, I was always a lineman.

    Football also develops a mental toughness that one must overcome or they let down the team. Besides battling the other team or the guy across from you, you must battle yourself. It’s tough work and you need to learn to suck it up once in while.

    It prepares you for life’ challenges.

    • JQP

      I posted a screed in opposition to your general thesis … what I would say you assume in your post is a program run by adults who are : well-rounded, well-intentioned, rational, totally open, take criticism to heart and mind, aware that winning is NOT #1 ( kids health, grades. family, community come before sports)
      but after 25 years in team sports at the local, state and national level in 2 different sports … my opinion is …. there are precious few programs that exhibit the dream of well-rounded development that you cite. For the most part … the programs are run by parents who, as the saying goes, were the ones who couldn’t and there fore teach … and they do it pretty badly.

      • Gary F

        It’s about developing young men to prepare them for life’s challenges. And yes, grades, health, family, community are all part of it. And winning in not the only thing, my son played on a team in 7th grade that lost every game they played, 0-7 and were behind by two touchdowns in the first quarter almost every game. He learned more that year than he probably did when he was on winning teams.

      • Onan The Barbarian

        Were the coaches and volunteers “Youth Sports Certified”? it certainly doesn’t sound that way.

        As a former 3 sport youth sports coach I tried to instill the ideas of: “Have fun, play to the best of your ability, don’t cheat” for all of the members of the teams I coached.

        Yes, I have seen the extremes that are outlined above but for the most part, at least in the programs in which I was involved, these extremes were the exception and not the rule.

  • JQP

    Nope – in its current format its a badly run form of parental abuse. kids are yelled at, insulted, beaten down and made a mockery of by parent-coaches …. who .. lacking sports … couldn’t hold a job in as a gas station attendant, and who , if it weren’t for modern pharmaceuticals would be in a hospital ward for terminal lardosis and halitosis or degenerative repetitive motion arthritis.

    The same can be said for hockey, soccer, baseball, basketball, lacrosse, wrestling, tennis, …. any high school “team” sport. Are the decent parents in those progams – sure a few – but by and large – the majority of parents running the programs are doing so for the ego-maniacal control satisfaction.

    Put it this way … if you got rid of statistics, scoring, wins/losses, …. and the publication of that information … how may parents would participate.

    If you could end the professional-parental participation, reduce the expense and expenditure on stadia, equipment, etc. and just provide some guardian parents to watch the kids ( BUT NOT LEAD THEM) …. the kids would be a whole lot happier.

  • PaulJ

    If concussions can be prevented the other negatives can be fixed. If not, football will go the way of the other concussion sport (boxing). Too bad though, those are great sports.

  • Fred Garvin

    Not only “should” kids be allowed to play FB, theyshould be MANDATED to play FB.
    Let’s make football part of Michelle’ Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign–instead of 10 yards for a first down, we place arugula 10 yards downfield and make the offense reach the arugula for a first down. Touchdowns? Place a pyramid of whole wheat/120 gain rolls in the end zone–if the offense doesn’t injure themselves running into the pyramid of brick-like rolls, they score 6 points. Of course, the DEFENSE will be awarded 6 points as well, because it’s all about “fairness”. Players will soon learn that the whole-wheat/120 grain rolls really sting when thrown at each other, and soon the “football” game will become a dodgeball game with welts and “hurt feelings”. Hours later, the players will walk home together laughing about the great dodgeball game they had and comparing bruises. Hungry yes– ’cause arugula and whole wheat/120 grain rolls SUCK.
    As part of conditioning exercises, FB players must race 50 yards to the ice barrel of bottled water, dunk for a bottle, and when consumed, must race the empty plastic bottle to the recyling bin strategically placed another 100 yards from the barrel.
    Welcome to Obama’s America. When you have a president who shoots a basketball and throws a baseball like a girl (and sux at both) and spent his high school years in a cloud of pot smoke, hey…just mellow out guuuuuuuyzzzzz. ‘ere…
    Meanwhile, Michelle & Barry can order pizza and beers on Martha’s Vineyard at our expense.

    • Onan The Barbarian

      You seem to have…issues.

      Please get back on your meds and try that answer again and this time, try to answer like an adult.


    • Dusqusted

      Wow. Case in point on how suffering concussions as a youth can be detrimental to cognitive function as an adult.

  • Dusqusted

    Sure why not? How many football players have you ever met that were destined for greatness anyway?

    • Mary

      What about a Minnesota Supreme Court Justice? They’re not all dumb.

  • Jim G

    Everything comes with a price. Football gives our developing young boys and men playing football confidence in their physical abilities. It can also be a positive male bonding activity, but it comes at a very high price that we former players know only too well. I played in organized tackle football programs from 5th grade through my sophomore year in college. I loved the game, and confess that if injuries hadn’t prevented me from playing, I’d still be out there today 40 years later. But injuries are an integral part of the game. From my experience most players don’t voluntarily leave the game, but are physically incapacitated by their injuries from continuing to play the game they love. The higher up in competitive levels a player goes, the higher the risks are. The kinetic-energy collisions players inflict on each other grow exponentially as the size and the speed of the players grow. The number and severity of knee, ankle, back, neck, and brain injuries grow through the high school, college and professional ranks.

    Today I remember my playing days with fondness, as formative to my growth from boyhood into early manhood. It gave me a legitimate outlet for the testosterone fueled crazy behavior young men inflict on themselves and their peers. But I pay the price for those fond memories everyday. Broken bones ache still, the neck pain is constant, knees have been operated on, and they’ll someday need replacing. The concussions have their own more subtle costs. Was playing football worth it? It was for the young man who played it, but not for the old man who shares his body.

    • Onan The Barbarian

      Don’t limit it to just boys/men. I have had girls play football as well.

  • JQP

    competitive team and or non-team sports should be completely severed from schools. above the 7th grade level. the cost of participation is a burden on the schools ( land, maintenance, insurance, replace/upgrade, management ). Schools should have non-competitive health-sports programs …. for students. Power walking, yoga or stretching, balance and alertness.
    Competitive sports can be a community program that the same citizens can determine what they will fund and support … just like they do now … however .. .the schools need to stick to education.

  • lindblomeagles

    I love football. Always have since the Bears drafter Walter Payton and the Buccaneers drafted Doug Williams. I play Fantasy Football every year and would love to be an NFL commentator. BUT–I’m also a realist. Football players are glorified BECAUSE the sport is unsafe, not just for youth or teenagers, but for adults and college kids too. This isn’t rocket science. All of us have common sense. Big, large, enormous men with speed that kills, roaring towards each other like two semi-trucks or freight trains in the dead of night clearly isn’t healthy long term. But like most sports, one can have quite a bit of fun playing football and demonstrate artistry and wow factors that leave us all wondering, “How did he do that?” Moreover, my generation learned how to play football by playing tag, Frisbee, and flag football. There are options for youth, but even if your youth wants the real thing, parents and children should not naively believe that their son will be too fast or too big to get hurt. That’s the real problem. Two many people forget the object of the sport . . . to tackle someone.

  • Elijah the Tishbite

    No! Quit sacrificing our kids to Footbaal!

  • mpjt16

    Kids have been playing football, hockey, baseball, soccer, etc for years. Certainly a few get hurt but kids also get hurt walking or riding their bike. They occasionally get hit by a car or by a parent.
    It isn’t bad sports, it is bad luck.
    My son played football for a miserable team. They got trounced every game. After on particularly lopsided loss on a freezing cold November afternoon I saw an opportunity to get him to quit the game. I asked about the loss and commented on the weather and his response was “I love this game”.
    My daughter played in sixth grade too. She had fun for that season and so did her team mates.
    We can’t protect everyone from every possible incident. Why keep trying? Provide a safe environment with proper equipment and expect that all will be well. And if it isn’t, remember there is such a thing as bad luck.

  • Max

    It certainly can be. The documentary “Undefeated” is an excellent example of how football can be positive influence in kids lives.

  • Fred Garvin

    Why was my satire deleted?

    • Pearly

      Rule #1 No poking fun at the Obamas expense

  • Sue de Nim

    The lessons football teaches kids:
    1. If people are standing between you and your goal, the correct thing to do is knock them down and run over them.
    2. If you’re good enough at it, people will overlook all sorts of indiscretions just so you can stay on the team.

    • Onan

      1) I always used a good feint would work better at achieving the goal line.

      /Rugby player