I love football. Ever since I was a kid living in Mexico watching the games I became a fan of American Football, as I called it. As much as I loved the sport I always knew it was dangerous, but it wasn’t until I was in my late 20s when i found out about the real dangers of football.
Every fall weekend during my teen years I would watch my favorite team – the San Francisco 49ers. I loved It. In middle school I joined the school’s flag football team, where I learned the basics of the sports.
I really liked playing football, but being from a rural community I wasn’t able to join a tackle football league. In high school however I was able to join the football team and play my junior and senior years.
It was there where I learned some real valuable life lessons like teamwork, discipline and sportsmanship. Being in the football team made my high school year more enjoyable and it gave me life long friends.
I was never good at football, but I enjoyed playing it anyways and after high school I continued to play pick up game with friends from work.
I always knew that there were dangers with the game, like broken bones, concussions and, in rare cases, paralysis and even death. This however didn’t discourage me from playIng the game, because in my mind football was making me tough.
I started learning about a neurodegenerative disease called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE in the late 2000s. CTE is a disease that affects people who’ve had multiple head injuries. It’s most commonly found in war veterans and boxers.
In the following years there would be more and more media attention to this disease, especially after more former NFL player’s suicides were link to CTE.
In 2012 one of the biggest football players of its time, Junior Seau, committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest. I followed Seau’s career from him being a former USC player. His suicide and later diagnosis of CTE made me think differently about the dangers of football.
In my first year of college I read the book “Against Football One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto” by Steve Almond. It talked about how the NFL hid many studies done previously about the dangers of concussions in the NFL. This book made me more aware of how the NFL was trying to downplay the dangers of concussions.
All of this made me rethink my love for football and whether I would let my kids play tackle football from a young age. My conclusion was no. I wouldn’t want my kids to suffer brain damage just to play a game. I would rather wait until they are older in order for them to play.
I wouldn’t want them to miss out on the experiences I had while playing football in high school. I would love for them to play football only until they are old enough to withstand taking a hard hit.
In recent days California has been talking about making a law that would restrict tackle football before high school. This law will essentially replace tackle football with flag football for those who still want to play the game.
I believe that flag football is a much safer alternative for kids to learn the basics of football and get ready to play tackle football until they are in high school. I think the NFL is now taking concussions seriously, but do believe that maybe they can do more to prevent such injuries.
I still love football and I still love watching it every Sunday in the fall. I just believe that we can have fun, enjoy the game and be safe all at the same time.