Are Concerns About Youth Football Injuries Overrated?

Photo courtesy of Jim Danvers / Flickr

Now that youth football is over for the year, I wanted to throw a piece out there about how great youth football is for all youth everywhere. We all watch football at all levels to include pro, college and high school. However, far and away the most exciting game to watch is youth tackle football.

Seeing how this is Texas, in just about every town  youngsters have the opportunity to play tackle football if they desire.

If you have a problem with your kid’s interest in tackle football, I encourage you to go watch a game at the South County Football League’s fields located at the Gullo Park located off Budde/Pruitt road.

If you have young children and are skeptical about putting them in tackle football, watch some games of all age kids.

They start when they are 5 years old and the league goes until they are 13. After that, if they still want to play, they compete at the junior high level.

Is it a physical game? Yes! Is it expensive? Not really. Football registration is actually cheaper than baseball.

After you buy the football equipment, it’s all downhill.

The equipment lasts longer than a year and the kids usually don’t grow out of it in just a  year. Plus, you can always buy used stuff.

I guess the main worry for parents would be injuries.

I’ll try to clear this up using what I have witnessed as a football parent when my son played at the youth level.

It will be completely unbiased because I’m a baseball/lacrosse guy. I will side with baseball and lacrosse whenever the opportunity arises. This column is about football so I won’t go into the many reasons why baseball and lacrosse are the greatest sports on the planet.

Having said that, I see more kids suffer injuries playing youth baseball than football.

Case in point: While coaching a Little League game eight years ago, no less than four players on the other team went down and had to either leave the game or take extra time before continuing to play.

Luckily, one of the parents was an EMT that proceeded to carry his medical bag on the field after each occurrence.

During my son’s sophomore (7-8 years old) SCFL season, I only saw one player leave a game due to injury and that wasn’t from contact.

There you have it. I took football over baseball in the injury department.

I’m not trying to create a facade here. During games, some kids get hit so hard they stay on the ground and assume something must be wrong, only to find out absolutely nothing is wrong.

Thus, they get up and the next time they get planted, they get up again.

How good is that for a kid? I think it’s great. To learn toughness at an early age just makes parenting that much easier in the long run.

Picture this; the 7-year-old playing in the Sophomore Division gets lit up like a Christmas tree. He proceeds to cry. He gets hit like that again and cries less. Eventually, he realizes that hitting is part of the game and doesn’t cry after getting hit hard.

This is the kind of kid that isn’t yelling for the paramedics after he gets a scratch when he’s 13.

Kids who experience tackle football at an early age become less high-maintenance when they get older. I don’t think any kid is low-maintenance, so less high-maintenance will have to do.

A parent might say, “My boy is too small to play football.” Wrong!

Size doesn’t matter in most things, and definitely not in youth football.

Again, from my personal experience, the smaller kids get hurt less than the bigger kids. Some of whom have to get over a bad case of hypochondria.

That may seem biased because my kid was always the smallest player and every play he got demolished. But, he’d get up and go right back in there and try to contribute.

Believe me, I’m not bragging. Watching this kid play tackle football was a lot like watching MTV’s Jackass go through his masochism routine.

I could mention several other positives about the local tackle football league. But, I wanted to write a quick piece regarding the perceived injury question/problem.

Check out what York junior high school parent, Ben Hall had to say regarding concussion issues. “All of this concussion talk at the pro level has contributed to the paranoia. As long as these kids are getting coached up well, there won’t be a problem. The coaches are knowledgeable in SCFL and teach their players to tackle correctly with your head up and to always keep your head on a swivel so as to be completely alert.”

I think youth tackle football gets a bad rap and  I suggest anyone interested go out and watch some games.

Base your opinion on eyewitness observations, not on opinions of people who can’t back up a claim with facts.

Besides, if your child plays one year and really doesn’t like it, you can sell his gear and he doesn’t have to play the next year. No harm done at all.

However, that one year will probably do the kid a world of good.

Comments to Doug Sarant at doug@oakridgenow.com

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Doug Sarant, Oak Ridge Now

Born and raised in New England, Doug promises he got to Texas as fast as he could. He earned the much needed "piece of paper" from Sam Houston State, proving to himself he could start and finish something. Doug's interests include coaching and playing any sport and still plays lacrosse competitively. He also enjoys going to dinner theaters, though he complains there just aren't enough of them in the area. Doug was brought up in a cultured environment, having suffered through dozens of symphonies and operas with his way too over-educated mother. At the end of the day, Doug is just a dad and husband and claims to be good at both.

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