CTE has been a hot-button issue in the football world. With what we know about the effects of the brain disease, would you let your child play?
I was posed with a serious question a few days ago — one I didn’t realize would take me so long to answer.
If I had a child of my own, would I let him (or her, I guess) play football?
Just so you know, I’m 22 years old. I have no offspring, but I am an engaged man. So, children — I hope — are in the future for me and my soon-to-be wife.
So instead of casually brushing this question off, I desperately tried to put my self in the position a real father would be in.
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or more commonly known as CTE, has been a hot-button issue in the football world over the past few years, especially in the NFL. And barely even a week ago, ex-NFL tight end Aaron Hernandez, who was found hanging by his bedsheets from the window of his cell at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Massachusetts on April 19, was found to have had one of the most severe cases of CTE ever recorded in a football player.
He was 27. The last game he played in the NFL was on Jan. 20, 2013.
So, I thought to myself, how can someone who hadn’t played football in over four years be so affected by a traumatic brain disease at such a young age?
The thought scared me. Could I really let my own flesh-and-blood, someone I’m supposed to be responsible for, play such a dangerous sport?
I asked Flagler Palm Coast coach Travis Roland the same question.
“Yes, I would absolutely let me son play football,” he said. “I think people forget that at these young ages, kids aren’t running at the speed that college guys or NFL players are running at. Concussions are such a big deal in the NFL because of the size of some of the players. Those guys are huge.”
That relaxed me a little.
It’s true, I doubt a 10-year-old could run as fast or hit as hard as a 300-pound defensive tackle. Kids simply lack the size and strength to inflict more serious injuries — unlike at the college and professional levels.
But it was Seabreeze coach Troy Coke's response that made my final decision so much easier to make.
“This is the safest time ever to play football,” he said. “Yes, there's a lot of focus on concussions, but that's what makes it so much safer than 20 years ago. Twenty years ago, you'd get your bell rung on one play and then you'd get back out there. ... Now, with all the focus on it and all the protocols in place, it's the safest time in history to play this game.”
With that, I have my final answer — one my fiancé shares with me.
I think all the attention concussions and player safety is getting is wonderful. We're more aware and prepared to deal with this sort of thing than ever before, and technology and protocols are only going to improve.
So, I’m going to let my kid play.