CHICAGO — As stories of professional athletes — particularly former NFL players — showing signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) continue to crop up front and center, more parents are keeping their children from participating in contact sports. A new survey that shows the breakdown of which sports are taking the most heat finds that less than 20 percent of parents will allow their kids to play football, along with several others.
In March, the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) helped commission an online poll in which 1,188 parents were asked if they would permit their children to participate in athletics, given the risk of concussion.
In the U.S., it has been estimated that over 300,000 concussions a year occur, with the risk of sustaining a concussion in a given year reaching up to 19 percent among those who play a contact sport.
The poll found that a slight majority— 51 percent— of parents expressed feeling fine with their child participating in sports, while 33 percent of parents said that their decision depended on the type of sport their child wanted to play.
Sixteen percent of parents objected to their child playing competitive sports under any conditions.
Parents who allowed their kids to compete expressed that their preferred sports for their offspring to play were basketball (66 percent), baseball (63 percent), and soccer (57 percent).
Meanwhile, the number of parents who permitted children to participate in rougher contact sports was far lower: football (18 percent), lacrosse (17 percent), hockey (12 percent), and rugby (6 percent).
Among parents who let their kids play sports, it was found that 60 percent felt that the benefits from participating — improved teamwork and self-esteem skills, along with enhanced physical health — outweighed any risk.
This group was also fairly likely to believe that there was protective equipment available to prevent concussive symptoms.
To skeptical parents, “the key is not avoiding sports altogether but getting involved with programs that take safety very seriously, have well-trained coaches and provide properly fitting safety gear, like helmets,” advises lead researcher Dr. Dave Baron in an AOA press release. “There are socio-emotional aspects to sports and I encourage parents to consider all the risks and benefits, rather than focusing on a single risk.”
With this being said, the severity and impact of sustaining a concussion is commonly underestimated, and those who have one should avoid avoid contact until the trauma is fully healed, Baron says.
Harris Poll, who conducted the poll, called parents between March 23 and 27. A sampling error was unable to be determined.