Are Physicians Doing Enough to Keep Children Who Play Football Safe?

Recommendations that prioritize children's health should extend beyond supervision
Recommendations that prioritize children's health should extend beyond supervision

HealthDay News — Physicians should take a more active stand against tackle football, according to a perspective piece published in the February 4 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Noting that in October 2015, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued its first policy statement in relation to football tackling, Kathleen E. Bachynski, MPH, from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York City, discusses the role of physicians in addressing tackling in football.

Bachynski notes that the AAP committee proposed enhancing adult supervision of the sport, recommending that officials enforce the rules of the game and that coaches teach young players proper tackling techniques. However, there is no evidence to suggest that "safer" tackling techniques reduce concussions in young athletes. This emphasis on medical supervision does not address the risks associated with youth football, which can include catastrophic injury or death from full-on tackles and potentially cumulative brain damage from repeated hits to the head. As the short- and long-term consequences of concussions and brain injuries are difficult to treat, confronting the risks associated with football should be prioritized.

"Recommendations that prioritize children's health should extend beyond supervision of risky activities to include counseling against them," Bachynski writes. "Stronger recommendations against tackling would deepen public appreciation of the severity of the risks associated with repetitive brain trauma and would promote broader discussion about whether these are tolerable risks for children to undertake."

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