Is football safe for kids?

Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

With news of Tony Dorsett's degenerative brain disease, the danger of football is back in the forefront of the national discussion. The question posed around the country is simple: would you let your kid play football knowing what we do now?

Recently married, the topic of having kids is fresh on my mind. In fact, if you asked my wife, she wanted kids yesterday, but for a number of reasons, here we are — newlyweds who aren't parents. Yet.

So as news broke that Tony Dorsett, a football icon, is suffering from a degenerative brain disease known as CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), the national media jumped all over the story, and more importantly, its implications.

For years we've known that football isn't safe. We know that as players get bigger, stronger, and faster, the collisions will only get more violent and painful. But it's stories like this one that bring this debate to our attention time and time again.

Just like when Junior Seau committed suicide, when Bernie Kosar admitted to memory loss and the many other tragic stories that remind us exactly what we tune into every weekend.

Personally, I've always been straightforward: my kids aren't playing football.

I think the brain is the most valuable organ we've got, and I couldn't live with myself knowing I put my children in a position of risking the long-term health of it. That said, I don't pass any judgment on parents who decide differently — that's a decision we all need to make, and no one knows kids better than their parents.

For me, it was easy. Growing up, I was always the smallest kid in school, so while I loved sports — and even football — playing was never a realistic possibility. So, I stuck to basketball, soccer, and baseball.

Looking back, I'm grateful — knowing what I do now — that I don't have to worry about the consequences of concussions in my adolescence.

This morning, I tuned into the Dan Patrick Show in time to hear an interview with Rodney Harrison — a player infamous for his ability to hit and hit hard. Of all the people to be asked about this issue, I assumed no one would be more supportive of youth football than Harrison (who's even a youth football coach).

His answer, however, surprised me.

Both of Harrison's kids play football, but he explained very frankly that it's their choice when they want to start or stop. He went on to say that these days as he stands on the sideline of NFL games, he's legitimately scared. The collisions are getting more and more violent, and he says he's not sure how he ever played that game.

Remember, this is Rodney Harrison speaking.

Ten years ago if someone expressed similar sentiments, Harrison would have been 'Exhibit A' as to why the game was too violent or dangerous. And yet, just a few years later, Harrison is the one pointing out the violence.

This topic is definitely up for debate and there's no easy answer. And I understand (and respect) that completely.

Is it okay for kids to play youth football and then stop? High school football? College?

Dan Patrick made an interesting point that it's only the best players who continue playing — the better you are, the more at risk you are. If you're good enough to continue playing, the risk to which you're exposed only increases.

For me right now, it's an easy decision, but maybe when my son begs to play football as a fourth-grader, my stance will change.

Maybe there will be better helmets, technology or even rules out there to protect them, who knows. So I ask you, Raider Nation and beyond, will you let your kids play?

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