The Concussion Legacy Foundation recently released a PSA comparing the long-term risks of multiple concussions from playing football to smoking risks.

By Kristi Pahr
October 14, 2019

The push to get kids started in team sports begins younger and younger every year. From baseball camps targeting 4 and 5-year-olds to soccer clinics for kindergartners, parents fear that if they don't get their kids involved in sports early, by the time they're tweens, their skills won't be up to the same level as their teammates. Even tackle football, which used to be reserved for older kids, has turned younger, with leagues eschewing the flags for elementary-aged kids in favor of full-contact games.

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The Concussion Legacy Foundation recently released a PSA to help raise awareness of the prevalence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and to encourage parents to hold off on tackle football until age 14. Gaining more mainstream notice as many pro football players are being diagnosed with the injury, CTE is caused by repeated concussions. It is a degenerative condition, which means it gets worse over time, and results in erratic behavior, difficulty thinking, memory loss, and other mental and behavioral issues.

The PSA has raised some eyebrows on social media however, as it compares letting children play tackle football to allowing young kids to smoke cigarettes. The video shows footage of a football team comprised of elementary-aged kids, smoking on the sidelines of their football game, with smiling parents helping them light up.

We all know Americans love our football, so you can imagine the video has faced some harsh criticism. In a tweet of the video by NBC News, comments ranged from, "Oh good another reason to encapsulate kids in bubble wrap," and "Ya.....we get it, football is rough. Nothing new. Trying to end football is not going to work, I wish all the fragile people would just give it up already," as well as some of the less savory language people reserve for criticism on social media.

On the other end of the spectrum, commenters showed support of avoiding tackle football, although in a very social media way. "Letting a child play tackle football is akin to child abuse," stated one Twitter user. Another who was on the fence about tackle said, "Wow, I already knew I wasn't going to let me son play consecutive years of youth tackle football. But I guess I got to take it a step further."

According to data from the University of Washington, 5% of youth football players (ages 5 to 14) get a concussion from the sport each season. But other research shows that kids don't need to get a concussion to have long-term damage from head injuries or even just the hard impact that a kid's head gets during a football game.

The ad is definitely controversial, but it is also a bold move that highlights a problem that should be of concern to any parents whose kids play tackle football, hyperbolic comparisons or not.

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