But football is also putting our kids in danger.
Research, such as a study done by Boston University School of Medicine, has identified serious brain damage, or CTE — chronic traumatic encephalopathy — not only in the autopsied brains of professional football players but in at least one high school player’s brain as well.
More than ever before, parents are terrified of putting their boys on the field and, understandably, refuse to let their kids play football.
Even Obama, a big football fan, told The New Republic that if he had a son, he would “have to think long and hard” about whether he would let him play, because of the potential of getting injured.
And those parents who allow their kids to play football want safer rules and better oversight.
“My son was kickoff returner. I couldn’t even watch.” said Paige Hockman, whose oldest boy was a star player at Vestavia Hills High, a public school outside of Birmingham, Alabama.
“You are watching 11 huge boys fly downfield and their goal is to kill your child, just to knock a ball loose. It’s the scariest part of the game. If anything could be done on the kickoff where the momentum (would be) slowed down, I would be all for that,” she said. “Maybe we could do away with the kickoff completely.”
Hockman is a football mom. She understands well that even a small rule change, such as eliminating the kickoff, might cause a nationwide revolt. But she also knows her job is to keep her boys safe.
When her 10th-grader, a lineman at Vestavia, was recently sidelined for more than two weeks with a concussion after a dirty hit in practice, his mother didn’t panic. She is confident that the school is following the stringent injury policy mandated by the state of Alabama.
But Vestavia Hills High is rare. It is a well-funded school district where most of the parents are college-educated, Hockman said. The football team has a trainer and team doctor, who regularly communicate with parents.
Other players and families might not be as fortunate.
“It’s very different in Podunk, Alabama, schools, where parents and coaches are less educated and more concerned about winning than safety for the children,” Hockman said. “I hate to say it, but economics make a big difference. They don’t do things the right way in those schools.”