Half of Americans Won’t Let Their Sons Play Football: Why Are We Turning Our Boys Into Cupcakes?

Half of Americans Won’t Let Their Sons Play Football: Why Are We Turning Our Boys Into Cupcakes?

Why can’t Americans just let their boys embrace their masculinity?

Feminists, abetted by the eager media, give us stories of sex-crazed college boys raping innocent freshman girls, à la Rolling Stone Magazine, however bogus they may be.

Now Bloomberg releases a poll finding that half of Americans don’t want their boys to play football.

Those giving the thumbs-down to football are the usual suspects:  women, college-educated persons making over $100,000 yearly, and yes, Democrats. President Obama even added his own two cents (as usual) by saying, “. . . if I had a son, I’d have to think long and hard before I let him play football.”


In a way, it’s understandable. The National Football League has been wracked with stories of former players living with brain trauma, and the NFL recently admitted that one in three players will be affected by long-term cognitive problems, with those problems often emerging earlier in life than is typical. Some players have even become killers, as we in Kansas City observed two years ago when Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher killed his 22-year-old girlfriend, drove to Arrowhead Stadium, and then shot himself in front of then-manager Scott Pioli and then-head coach Romeo Crennel. His autopsy indicated Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy — head trauma — the same finding as in the autopsies of former NFL players Junior Seau and Dave Duerson, who both committed suicide.

I love football, but I agree with these grim conclusions; and while I’m not a neurologist, I am a speech pathologist who has studied neurology and traumatic brain injury at the graduate school level. Closed-head injuries — the kind most endured on the football field — are more deadly to the brain than the shocking open-head injury, where the skull is broken. During the impact of a closed-head injury, the brain bounces back and forth inside the skull, shearing off nerve endings. Post-impact, the brain swells within the skull with no place to expand, placing extreme pressure on already-traumatized brain tissue. Combine these injuries multiple times over the length of a playing career, and it’s no doubt that professional players are at high risk for cognitive damage. But do I think that professional football should be increasingly regulated? No, the players who sign the contracts are adults making their own decisions to enter a career where there is a strong risk of injury.

Too many parents, however, read these dire stories and think they apply to their sons at the grade school and high school levels. As an Ohio man said, “I just think it has become too dangerous. I don’t think they have the equipment they need to protect themselves, particularly at the junior high and high school level.” However, the statistics don’t bear this out for the young amateur player. A study by Mayo Clinic, which examined whether or not neurological damage was evident among high school football players from the 1940’s and 1950’s — a time when helmets were less robust than now — showed that there was no increase among these men in later life.  Furthermore, when we watch football in our home towns under the Friday Night Lights, we don’t see as massive an impact between young immature males as we do in professional football games, where 300-pound tackles regularly smash into other players. Let’s use a little perspective and more common sense.

Whether these anxious parents like it or not, their boys are genetically and biochemically wired to be aggressive, to push physical boundaries, and to take risks. Boys should not be bubble-wrapped, but encouraged to expend that risk-taking energy in sports participation, and football is an ideal way for them to exert their aggressiveness in a positive way. Football also teaches team-building, reliance on each other, and respect for the authority of the coach. When boys are forbidden to participate in such activities, they miss out on such valuable life lessons.

I raised two daughters, so I missed out on the football contention in our home. However, I am now the grandmother of a two-and-a-half-year-old grandson. He lives on the West Coast, so I don’t see him as much as I like, but when I do, I marvel at the little man-card he’s already creating for himself. He’s completely fearless about walking away on his own. He “goes fast.” He loves to crash his beloved cars and trucks. And if he has a major tantrum, he is not afraid to head-butt my daughter. Needless to say, he’s racked up some frequent time-outs.

My daughter and son-in-law do not coddle the little guy, but provide him with both discipline and the latitude to try new things, even if consequences occur.

This is one of my favorite pictures of my little grandson, taken by his mother, a photographer.

photo by Little Fish Photo

It’s a stunningly beautiful picture, highlighting the dramatic contrast of the tiny child amidst the enormous old-growth trees of the Pacific Northwest. Yet as his grandmother, I admit that it makes me catch my breath. Here is the image of a small child, alone in a forest. His mother and father are not beside him, holding his hands. I know, though, that both his parents were watching him closely during this shot, encouraging him to explore but following behind, ensuring his safety.

This is how boys should be raised — not to be treated as fragile little cupcakes to be enclosed in liners and wrappers, but allowed to exert themselves, with parents behind them, not hovering over them.

Written by

Kim is a pint-sized patriot who packs some big contradictions. She is a Baby Boomer who never became a hippie, an active Republican who first registered as a Democrat (okay, it was to help a sorority sister's father in his run for sheriff), and a devout Lutheran who practices yoga. Growing up in small-town Indiana, now living in the Kansas City metro, Kim is a conservative Midwestern gal whose heart is also in the Seattle area, where her eldest daughter, son-in-law, and grandson live. Kim is a working speech pathologist who left school system employment behind to subcontract to an agency, and has never looked back. She describes her conservatism as falling in the mold of Russell Kirk's Ten Conservative Principles. Don't know what they are? Google them!

  • Appalled By The World says:

    “Let’s use a little perspective and more common sense”.

    Here lies the problem. COMMON sense has become as common as finding a live dinosaur. Because it has become so rare this and every other issue in today’s society has become ridiculously overblown-and in many cases issues are created from absolutely nothing. The result is confusion, “victimhood” of all sorts and near anarchy.

  • Todd says:

    Anyone that has issues with junior football should look at the stats on injuries for junior soccer (that other sport that “moms” love over football).

    Too many things that people angst over fall into the category of what I call a “three day problem”. Would this issue really matter three days after the lights go out? If so, then lets do something about it. If not, save your breath. Most issues pushed by todays feminists are solidly in the category of a “three day problem” and should be treated as such.

  • Douglas Levene says:

    Football is a dangerous sport. Back in the 1930s, my grandmother wouldn’t let my father play it because she thought it was too dangerous. She did, however, let him play hockey, perhaps because she had no clue what that involved. But my nephews play today and it’s a fine sport, in my opinion, if you don’t mind waking up with aching knees for the next 60 years of your life.

  • Steven says:

    High school football resulted in 8 direct deaths of teenage boys last year. That doesn’t include boys in coma or deaths related to football . There other contact sports that don’t result in death that boys can take up. Players in 40s and 50s were half size as todays HS players. Recent studies show brain damage in players with no concussion history. Please do more research and stop promoting the liars who don’t care about our children.

  • Beerdad says:

    One of my great passions in life has been football. I was lucky enough to be pretty good at it, usually being one of the better players on the team. By no means a superstar, I was recruited by small colleges in Division 2 and 3, and wound up playing Division 3.

    I admit as the media hyped up the concussion issue, that I considered the consequences as I had at least 2 concussions in my playing days. I considered the possibility of not allowing my boys to play the sport. I settled on simply not being the dad that pushes his sons to play his favorite sport. If they want to play football they can play. My oldest son doesn’t like football. My second son loves the game and I never directly pushed it upon him to play. He found the game on his own. If he wants to play that is fine with me.

    The level of caution that is exerted down to the pee wee level regarding concussions is almost insane. I can’t ever recall 8 year olds having major concussions. In my second son’s first season, I saw very few hits that were violent, the kind where a kid got laid out flat. The fact remains that children of a certain age just don’t create enough momentum to have concussions at a frequency that we should be concerned to the level that the media makes it out to be. Perhaps we should be more concerned for concussion issues than we were a generation ago, but as a nation we seem to always go off the deep end with safety concerns.

    The other issue that seems to have gone overboard is heat. The concern about heat illnesses is so overboard that they won’t even let kids practice in heat. One day last year it was 85. It was hot, but it wasn’t that hot. Did we practice? No. Too hot. My experience is if you don’t practice in it, then you don’t wind up getting acclimated to it. I can understand not practicing if it were 100, but not at 85. Certainly precautions should be taken, but instead of not practicing when it’s 85 for 2 hours, maybe limit it to 1 hour with any necessary water breaks, without helmets and pads. When I grew up in the 1980’s, 85 degrees was just an average summer day and we spent most of those days outside running around.

    As a country we’ve certainly wussified our boys. There are many fine things to gain from football. Sportsmanship. Determination. Toughness. No matter how tough my day is, I know that every day on my job is significantly easier than those August 3-a-day practices in 90 degree weather in my college playing days. Sometimes that thought alone gets me through a tough day. If I could go through all that back then, then what I have to do now is next to nothing. It’s a shame if we don’t toughen our young men, because the world is only getting tougher and the next generation is going to need to be tougher than we are building them to be.

  • GWB says:

    I wouldn’t have let my son play football for a couple of reasons:
    – First, it is a pretty violent sport. I’m not talking just hitting your opponents, but breeding an attitude of actually trying to hurt your opponent. No, it’s not every coach or parent, but it’s quite a number of them. Yes, there are some in every sport – soccer, baseball, basketball – but they seem to be very prevalent in football.
    – Second is the attitude of so many coaches and sports organizations in which that particular sport is to be the sole focus of your child’s life for the duration. Again, this happens in other sports, too, but hockey, and football seem to draw these sorts of people like flies to crap.

    But, you know what? I wouldn’t outlaw it, nor ban it.
    I wonder how many folks not within those liberal demographics you mention have the same sorts of thoughts?

    One day last year it was 85. It was hot, but it wasn’t that hot. Did we practice? No.

    The new heat index information overcompensates for humidity. The Air Force base near my place begins issuing heat warnings a LOT earlier than they used to. (Admittedly, working around jet aircraft on a hot asphalt/concrete ramp is a bit more than working out on a grass field.) I remember working outside in my mom’s garden the summer we had 13 straight days of 113°+ temps. Yes, I went inside a lot, but it took that sort of temperature to start giving out heat warnings.

    Mind you – while I wouldn’t want my son playing football, I didn’t mind him biking without a helmet (after a certain age), climbing on monkey bars, spinning on merry-go-rounds (where we could still find them in existence), or climbing trees. I only warned him about sliding headfirst down the playground slide because he would end up with a face-full of mulch – which he subsequently did, and decided he … needed to be more careful about his landings. Heh.

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