Pee Wee Football – Is it Safe?

Dear Robin:

My son is in 2nd grade and wants to start playing football, which I support. His dad is against it.

My husband is an ER physician and has strong concerns about head injuries, pointing to new evidence it is a very dangerous sport.

My argument is that these are little kids playing a kid’s game and I doubt they could really end up hurting each other. My brothers played football and all of them are just fine – one of them even played in college and is a successful businessman.

So how do we resolve this argument? My son pointed out that it’s two against one so we should be able to decide as the majority, but his dad is unmoved. 

Sidelined Mom

Dear Sidelined Mom:

This is a very difficult question, because I don’t see a possible compromise presented with these facts.

Either your son plays football or he doesn’t.

You and your son stand on one side and your husband on the other and frankly these are the worst type of family problems because only one side will get their way.

The last time I wrote about football I really upset some folks so I relish the opportunity to piss off the same people all over again. Thank you for the opportunity to continue my efforts to alienate and anger those who know more about football than I do!

In case you missed that one, click here: a sour ending to the Heisman Trophy award ceremony.

Does Football = Fucked Up Heads?

Your husband is right to be concerned.

There are several new studies indicating that football, even the less violent form played in early childhood, can have devastating impacts on the developing brain. Even minor concussions can cause negative repercussions for decades after the game has been called and the orange slices put away.

If your son starts playing next year and loves it, he will likely continue to participate in football over the years and increase his odds of becoming injured as the players grow larger and the game becomes more physical and competitive.

On the other hand, millions of children play football every year and are fine. Also true is that other sports, including soccer, lacrosse, baseball and chess, run a risk of injury to your son. That’s why we have helmets and pads and the like.

Hmmm. This is quite the conundrum.

You said:

“My son pointed out that it’s two against one so we should be able to decide as the majority, but his dad is unmoved.”

My oh my, that’s quite the little litigator you have there. He’s got a real future in imposing a tyranny of the majority on others so perhaps instead of football you could direct his interests into civics?

Robin Punders this Problem

I’m sorry for the chuck and duck but I’m going to punt this question back to you so you can tackle it with your family pediatrician.

I’m not trying to occupy the neutral zone and I don’t mean to get you down, but I think you should huddle with your kid’s doctor and discuss your options to maximize your child’s safety.  I’m not eligible to make this call and any attempt at advice could come off as padded or incomplete, so I’ll pass.


  1. Read the studies your husband is referring to and strongly consider whether they give you concerns about your son playing football.
  2. Read this article about children, football and long-term injuries. children, football, and long-term injuries.
  3. If you remain unswayed, have a meeting with your husband and your son’s pediatrician to discuss the risks and options for minimizing them.

If you and your husband truly can’t come to a decision together, I agree with Little John Stuart Mill – he should be allowed to play, but with the following caveats:

  1. He will never play while injured;
  2. His schoolwork, attitude and chores at home come first.  He must maintain good grades and a positive attitude;
  3. He will be fully educated on the symptoms of head (or any other) injuries and must report any problems to you both;
  4. You will reassess at the end of one season.

Good luck and let me know what happens!


As always, please share!  I’m back tomorrow with a freshly-squeezed AskDesCamp, I promise!  I’ll also have updates on the book!

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Mary Bowman

    Hmmm. Interesting discussion. Could you please describe a chess injury? I am interested in knowing whether my spouse suffers from a brain injury which causes him to reload the already-loaded dishwasher?. Could years of chess have warped his grey matter irreparably??

  2. jenny

    I’m with that dad. He should not play. For any reason. But at some point, when he is older, he will be able to choose himself and not need the parents consent. If he does play, you must must must provide your own helmut. Do not use the league/club/school-issued helmuts. You must invest in an MIPS Football helmut. At the very least. All the while telling him not to play football.

  3. kathy

    Place all the children in bubblewrap forever. The illusion of safety by forbidding any activity that might lead to injury.

Comments are closed.