California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

    Banning Youth Tackle Football is Wrong

    As chatter about concussions in football continues to linger within the media and throughout football circles, the football community must keep looking for ways to make the game safer.

    The right way to do that is by implementing rule changes within the game and teaching proper technique.

    Banning youth football is the absolute wrong way to make the game safer and it outright takes away a parentโ€™s right to exercise good judgment and make informed decisions on behalf of their children.

    โ€œThe game only speeds up when you get older and faster,โ€ said quarterback Bryan Bennett, who attended NFL training camp with the Indianapolis Colts and spent two years in the CFL with the Winnipeg Bluebombers and Saskatchewan Roughriders. โ€œYouth football is like training wheels on a bike. Itโ€™s not always the best idea to just hop on a bike without knowing how to pedal.โ€ย 

    In February, Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego) and Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), co-sponsored Assembly Bill 2108 titled the โ€œSafe Football Act.โ€ The bill, which proposed to ban youth football entirely, was pulled April 26 by McCarty after failing to receive traction among the California State Assembly.

    While youth football wonโ€™t be going anywhere for the time being, this bill is a classic example of government overreach and does nothing to prevent the core of the sportโ€™s real problems: flawed rules, incompetent coaching methods and bad practice habits.

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 3.8 million sports-related concussions happen every year.

    Much of the pushback against tackle football in todayโ€™s society stems from horror stories of ex-NFL players suffering from symptoms related to chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

    According to the Concussion Legacy Foundation, CTE is a degenerative brain disease found in athletes and military veterans that may lead to problems with emotions, mood swings and memory loss.

    Some people point to a recent study published last July by the Journal of the American Medical Association, which examined 202 brains from football players of various levels.

    The study made national headlines for revealing that 110 of 111 brains of those who played in the NFL had either mild or severe CTE. However, its results are skewed for many reasons, including the fact that the brains of these ex-players were not randomly selected. They were donated by families who had reason to expect that examiners would find evidence of brain damage.

    Findings from the experiment published on JAMAโ€™s website also acknowledge that the brain bank is โ€œnot representative of the overall population of former players of American footballโ€ since โ€œmost players of American football have played only on youth or high school teams, but the majority of the brain bank donors in this study played at the college or professional level.โ€

    By examining the pace of the game and implementing rule changes that improve player safety, the right steps are in place for a safer game at all levels. From the NFL to college, high school and youth football, rule changes have been made to limit the amount of contact allowed in practice.

    Kickoff, which is widely regarded as the most dangerous play in the sport, has evolved and no longer allows a return unit to employ four-man wedges that created violent collisions for years.

    The other way to fix the landscape of football is to demand more from coaches. Before assuming my duty as an assistant varsity coach at Grace Brethren High School, I was required by California law to complete a free online concussion course provided through the National Federation of State High School Associations.

    While coaches in Grace Brethrenโ€™s youth program are also obligated to complete this course, there are no bylaws mandating all youth coaches to earn such accreditation. This is where many in the football community see an opportunity for change.

    โ€œBut the main thing [coaches] need to do is learn how to teach kids to tackle the right way, since most head injuries come from bad technique,โ€ said Ryan McNab, sophomore wide receiver at California Polytechnic University San Luis Obispo.

    If lawmakers want to get involved, it should be mandating youth coaches to become educated about the dangers of repeated head trauma and the risks associated with improper tackling technique. Legislators have no place intruding on a parentโ€™s right to place his or her child in a sport that has so much to offer.

    Jake Gould