Companies in the US seem to get away with a lot and therefore lag behind when it comes to safety. This is true of the food industry, where the FDA approves foods that are banned elsewhere, and rightly so; it’s true of the clothing industry and it’s also true for sports.
There was a time when football concussion talk was dismissed, a time when fake turf was considered safe and in both cases inquisitive and worried parents were told to stop worrying. However, we now know that concussion is a serious risk when playing football and rugby and that the fake turf being used across the US is connected to a long list of cancers and other illnesses.
So does that mean all sports are unsafe? Is there always a risk of concussion with contact sports and are there any sports that are safe for your kids to get involved with?
There are some major differences between football and rugby. The rules, the equipment, the popularity, etc., But in terms of risk, injury and concussion, these sports are very similar.
In the NFL, there are around 250 concussions per season and in one study that looked at NFL players’ brains post-mortem, 99% had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a serious neurodegenerative brain disease. (Read more about CTE here on GMP.)
There are also many recorded rugby deaths in players who play amateur rugby. There are two ways to look at this. It could be that these deaths are the result of limited medical care, as well as lax laws governing head-injury-assessments in low leagues. The professional game has stepped things up in this area, but that’s not true of the amateur game.
On the other hand, it could simply be that there are more amateur and lower league games played every week than professional ones and that the players are not as fit and therefore not as capable of surviving bigger blows.
There are regulations in place to limit issues. In rugby, players who take a blow to the head and go down are taken off for a ten-minute assessment. In American Football, targeting rules have been brought in to limit big, dangerous hits. In combat sports like boxing, fighters in the amateur ranks wear head guards and heavily padded gloves and any professional fighter who gets knocked out is forced to wait several months before fighting again.
This is all a step in the right direction, but there are still massive dangers and it’s easy to see why parents are anxious about letting their kids get involved with these sports.
Hockey is one of the sports that has taken steps to limit damage to youngsters playing the game. This aggressive sport is said to send 1 out of every 50 young players to the ER, a statistic that is sure to scare any parent. In Canada, they have outlawed body-checking for kids under 13, which cut the injury risk by half, but there are still far too many injuries.
But what about basketball? It’s not exactly a non-contact sport, but surely it’s safe, right? Well, not exactly. Every year there are over 170,000 injuries reported as a result of kids playing this game. A lot of this is down to the sheer popularity of basketball and the fact that it is played at all levels and on all street corners, but that’s still a scary number. Sprains, strains, breaks, cuts—none of these are as bad as concussions and CTE, but it’s still a worry.
Is Any Game Safe?
This begs the question, just what games are safe? Well, the truth is that most sports can seriously hurt and even kill. Take cricket as an example. It seems to be a very safe game. It’s like baseball in many ways, but they wear padding. They don’t do a lot of running, it is a no-contact sport and it’s slow-paced.
Sound like the perfect game for your kids, right? Well, not really.
There have been a number of deaths in cricket. The ball is thrown at a great pace and if it hits in a certain place, then it can kill. Of course, cricket is played all over the world. There are a huge number of professional leagues and it is played by millions across India, Bangladesh, England, South Africa and many other countries. When you look at the number of people that play and compare to the number of deaths, it’s one of the safest games around, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a risk.
But that’s the key thing here. Nothing is safe and there will always be a risk. Kids can have asthma attacks from running too much. They can fall and twist their ankle without being touched. But that doesn’t mean we should ban them from running. Kids need sport, because they enjoy it and it’s one of the few ways to get them exercising and to keep them away from their tablets and consoles.
As a parent, it’s not your duty to keep them away from all sports. But it is your duty to do your due diligence about every game and every activity, to look into it and to take the word of scientists, researchers and health agencies over sports coaches and governments. You’re in control, so make sure you do the right thing and keep your kid’s health in your hands.
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