I just got an email from my local homeschool group announcing openings in the local homeschool football team. This is notable because as Jews, we were not allowed to be officially part of their group, but I guess football is different. It’s also notable because tackle football is so over-the-top dangerous that I can’t believe homeschoolers are participating.

It’s no longer controversial to say that football is really dangerous and it’s ruining the lives of the players. The National Football League has agreed to a $700 million settlement with the players to compensate them for lifelong brain damage.

What’s shocking to me though is that doctors are coming down hard on pee-wee football, it turns out that kids playing football is much more dangerous than adults playing football. This is because compared to the NFL, there is scant regulation for high school and grade school football.

So what doctors are really saying is that unregulated tackle football is incredibly dangerous.

Some school districts are stepping up to acknowledge this problem. Half the high schools in Nebraska, for instance, take brain scans of kids before the athletic season through the Sports Concussion Network (not just football but sports like softball and lacrosse as well) and then when a kid gets a concussion, a doctor compares the new brain scan with the baseline brain scan and the kid can’t play again until there is a note from the doctor and the parents giving a clean bill of health.

In general kids should not play sports for at least two weeks after a head injury. Most kids play a day later.

So it’s fine that homeschoolers have their own sports leagues. It’s great for kids to have that opportunity to play. But the lack of regulation in alternative football leagues should make you think twice. Take a look at the photos of the brains of football players later in life: Football destroys brains.

The rules of the game will have to change before football is a safe sport to play. You took your kids out of school because you didn’t want to wait until someone figured out how to make school useful. Why keep your kid in football while someone is still figuring out how to make it safe?

12 replies
  1. Heather
    Heather says:

    Timely post. Smart woman.

    However, in keeping with the actual topic:

    The photo is throwing me off because young homeschool football leagues are comparable to community football little league, and have the same measure of preventative care across the line – which is to say, they have none. Of course, there is more contact with the ground from tripping because they can’t see over their shoulder pads than from getting hit in the actual game.

    By the time a child is old enough to be part of a high school football team, brain scans certainly can provide a baseline of information that when used wisely, may prevent most long term damage in full contact sports, but I know of no high school that does them. So at least in this area (and the surrounding areas), there does not appear to be a difference between homeschool/public/private school students in this regard.

    Perhaps football is more dangerous for homeschoolers who live in those Nebraska communities who invest in brain scans for their players, but across the line I bet most are still on equal footing.

  2. Matt
    Matt says:

    I’m pretty sure more kids sustain long term mental impairment as a result of homeschooling than playing football.

  3. Commenter
    Commenter says:

    The idea of doing repeated head x-rays of kids who play football does have its drawbacks: some of those children may end up dying instead from cancer caused by the x-rays.

    Per the NIH, “the extra risk of any one person developing a fatal cancer from a typical CT procedure is about 1 in 2,000.” The death rate from football participation is currently far lower than that (1 in a million maybe).

    Penelope has posted before about her local homeschooling peers. It seems they may be more concerned about impact to thoughts than impact to skulls.

  4. Linda
    Linda says:

    I don’t allow my boys to play football (and they have no desire because we never watch games) but they do play soccer, and I’m not certain that is better.

    The problem is, sitting on the couch too much has a 100% chance of leading to diabetes. And not many boys want to take up jogging on a treadmill or swimming laps. My guys want a competitive team sport and I want it to be a sport with ample running, so that leaves soccer and basketball.

    • Commenter
      Commenter says:

      As you say, everything must be balanced against the consequences of doing no sports. One might keep in mind also that head injuries are not the only negative consequences of sports. A larger negative consequence of football might be the widespread obesity of football players. Ever seen an obese soccer player? (Okay, Maradona, but that was after he stopped).

  5. Crimson Wife
    Crimson Wife says:

    Competitive cheerleading, equestrian events, and gymnastics are actually all more dangerous sports than football, but I don’t hear you complaining about them. Personally I wouldn’t put my kids in any risky sport (so diving, downhill skiing, and any of the “X Games” sports would be out as well). But I don’t think football deserves to be soloed out when it isn’t even the riskiest.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Yes, point well taken about other dangerous sports as well. In fact, we have a farm set up for horses and I keep not getting them because I’m scared we’ll get hurt.

      Then I think, it’s so fun to have horses and it’s crazy that we could horses twenty yards from the back door and we don’t. People drive hours to go ride their horse. I should have a horse.

      Then I think, no, we’ll die. We’ll all fall off horses.

      I always think the truth about risk is revealed in insurance premiums. And on our farm we have machinery and livestock and fire hazards everywhere, but we would have to pay a hefty premium on the insurance we have in order to keep horses.

      Penelope

  6. Homeschool Planet
    Homeschool Planet says:

    Just enrolled my kid in pee-wee tackle football. Such a tough, wrenching decision. We are so not into the game yet my 9yo is in love with it, wants it, craves it, plans his week around it, lights up like a Christmas tree just talking about it. Who is this kid, right? I worry about his brain, his body. Not every mom is pushing the game. Just saying.

    • Commenter
      Commenter says:

      I won’t judge you. I feel fortunate I didn’t face your decision. My linebacker sized son (just turned 9, 4’11 125#) has never been interested, and I’m fine with that. Épée fencing is more his cup of tea. But if he was crazy for football I can’t say I wouldn’t let him.

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