stanford vs cal football poster

By Gabrielle. Vintage football poster here.

Last week, an article about football injuries showed up in my Facebook timeline. It was from last year and it talks about how 96% of former NFL players in the study, show signs of brain damage. 96%. That is insane.

So far, I haven’t had a child with any interest in playing football, so it hasn’t been something I’ve had to think about from that perspective. But I do find myself with mixed feelings about football in general.

I have very happy memories of attending high school football games, and seeing the community come together in support. I have even better memories of attending college football games with my dad who was a huge fan, always hanging a team flag outside our front door on game days. I love the cheers and the enthusiasm and the fall sweaters and the face paint. The whole thing feels very All-American and since I grew up with it, it’s also familiar and cozy. Of course, I also have many dear friends who have kids playing on football teams right this minute, and I love seeing the photos in my social streams.

On the other hand, I realized the other day that I don’t watch professional football at all, and haven’t in years — even if I attend a Superbowl party, I’m not likely to watch any of the game. I can’t seem to support the NFL as an organization. And it’s pretty impossible for me to get over the fact that as I watch a game, the players involved are literally sustaining injuries that will affect them (and their families) throughout their lives. Their injuries should not be my entertainment.

Obviously, injuries happen in every sport, but with football it feels different to me, because of the frequency, type and severity of the injuries. It makes me wonder what I would do if my kids wanted to play. Would I let them? Maybe through middle school? Or through high school? As for college, I find myself supportive of intramural sports, but anything that is monetized at the college level can stress me out if I think about it — it’s not okay that universities are making huge dollar signs off of kids who aren’t compensated beyond tuition and housing, could likely sustain life-long injuries, and are prevented from being serious students because of the time commitment of the sport. But I suppose that’s a whole other topic. : )

What’s your take? Is there any sport — football or otherwise — you wouldn’t let your kids play? Do you (like me) have mixed feelings about football? Or do your feelings change depending on the age range? NFL versus college versus high school? Do you live in a town where football is a big deal? If your kids play, have you seen the coaches make any changes that prevent injuries? I’d love to hear!