Fort Worth, Texas,
14:11 PM

Should your child play football?

The Doc Smitty and the concerns of repetitive trauma, concussions

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland retired yesterday after a very successful rookie season.

He’s not hurt and had a presumably bright future in the NFL.

Why did he retire?

In light of the recent focus on repetitive trauma, concussion and brain injury, he decided that it was in his best interest to stop playing football.

Consider it this way: After years of playing football, starting a very young age, succeeding in high school and later at the University of Wisconsin, he reached the pinnacle of his sport and decided it was better to walk away than to keep playing. Granted, he’s only one player and many, many more will continue to make the decision to go back to training camp in July.

Most football players will never reach that point where they’ll have to decide if the NFL is right for them. I played junior high football, but didn’t move on to high school. I like to tell myself that I was making sure I was protected from injury for tennis season (truth was, I was probably a little scared of being small and getting hit by bigger high school kids. Sorry for lying, Coach West).

If you look at the research,  it seems like cumulative trauma is the issue. The older and bigger you get and the longer you play, the number and the force of the traumas increase. The rules are changing in an attempt to make the sport safer. But, I’m sure many of you read this and worry about your young football players.

My sons haven’t asked to play football yet. At 5 and 3, I think the level of risk for concussion is higher when I pick them up and throw them as high as I can in the air barely grabbing them before they crash into the ground. But living in the middle of Texas, football countr,y and having an older son built like a perfect tight end and having little brother with a canon for an arm, I am sure that is a conversation we will have some day.

I wonder if someday we’ll look back on the days when football was played and think, “I can’t believe that they used to do that to themselves.” Or, will the sport look so different that we will barely recognize it?

What about you? Do you have concerns about your sons playing football?

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Jim West
Dr. Smith, I knew what you were telling me when you were in high school. I agree that concussions are a concern and I want to mention a few other concerns that I have after 33 years of coaching "football". One of the concerns that I have is does the helmet fit correctly with the hair cut or wet? Are they wearing a mouthpiece that fits correctly on all of their teeth? Are they being taught the correct way to tackle the ball carrier? And finally the concern has and will always be "football" , but in the last five years I have seen more concussions in soccer and basketball than I have seen in football, both boys and girls. Thanks for the time to let me discuss the issue of concussions as it has always been a concern of mine. By the way, you were a good football player and your kids will probably be good also.