My husband and I are having a big disagreement about our son and I hope you can help us figure out a compromise. Our son is in 2nd grade and wants to start playing football next year. He is a very athletic kid and loves to compete so I’m all for it. His dad is against it.
My husband is an ER physician and has strong concerns about head injuries our son could suffer in football. He says there is 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 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 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?
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.
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 impact on the developing brain and even minor concussions can cause negative repercussions for decades after the game has been called and the orange slices put away.
Obviously if your son starts playing next year and loves it, he will 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?
Sorry to veer off there. I’m also 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 don’t think I’m eligible to make this call and any attempt at advice could come off as padded or incomplete, so I’ll pass.
Here’s my advice:
1. Read the studies your husband is referring to and strongly consider whether they give you concerns about your son playing football.
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.
4. 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:
a) he will never play while injured;
b) he will play other sports as well;
c) he will be fully educated on the symptoms of head (or any other) injuries and told he must report any problems to you both;
d) his schoolwork and chores at home cannot suffer because of football; and
e) you will reassess at the end of one season.
Good luck and let us know what happens!