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Football is the center of attention for a good majority of the American people during the seasons of autumn and winter. On Fridays, the high school boys play their opponents, on Saturdays, the college athletes consume household televisions, and on Sundays, the professional football players take the field. The high range of fans is engrossed by this highly entertaining and thrilling sport. Many emotions are brought on as the referee makes a good or bad call, or as a clutch play wins the game. Although, as mesmerizing and enchanting football may seem, there is an ugly truth hidden behind the boys in uniform and shiny helmets. The hard impacts these players endure, such as a tackle to the chest, the slamming of helmets against one another, or the pounding of one’s head hitting the ground, utterly take a toll on their health and well-being. With this in mind, I believe that football should be banned among children due to its long-term effects which are deadly, causing chronic traumatic encephalopathy, other cognitive issues, and even depression.

Football should be banned among children primarily because of the head injuries that the sport produces. With the overwhelming amount of concussions, also known as mild traumatic brain injury, or brain problems these players endure, the long-term effects are terrifying for the player and their parents. As explained by Nick Paumgarten, a concussion brings headaches, vertigo, and unrelenting fatigue, which is by far an uncomfortable situation. Not only does it bring pain and frustration at the initial beginning of the concussion, but there are also future conflicts that come with one. It is seen that “in organized high school sports, concussions occur more often in competitive sports, with football accounting for more than 60% of concussions” (BIRI). Because of the significant amount of concussions produced in sports, red flags should be raised. Along with that, “children and youth ages 5-18 years accounted for 2.4 million sports-related emergency department visits annually, of which 6% (135,000) involved a concussion” (BIRI). Thus, this proves how common such injuries are in children. With the exceedingly high amount of kids diagnosed with concussions, it is thought to have been linked to a CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy. In an article from Frontier for Young Minds, CTE is caused by repetitive head injuries leading to a progressive loss in memory and other brain skills and leads to harmful changes in thinking, behavior, and mood. Our youth are losing their ability to effectively learn in school or focus on specific tasks in general. Thus, creating conflicts later in life for their jobs or while trying to earn a degree. There is no specific number of hits or blows to the head that dictates whether or not a CTE will develop, however, the level of intensity dictates how fast the brain will begin to deteriorate. There could also be multiple hits or just one strong one, it is unknown as to how each person’s body will react. The worst part about CTE is that it cannot be diagnosed while a person is alive, and the only indicator is sudden changes in behavior, and the elevated levels of a protein called tau. Football, and sports like it, could be silently killing the athletes without a clue it’s occurring. Without a reliable way to diagnose CTE – even with a CAT scan, there will usually be no visible bleeding or damage to the brain – children are in danger. So, the real question is, should a parent let their child take the risk of getting a CTE that will ultimately alter their life negatively for a fun game?

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Depression is a mental health disorder characterized by persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life. In football and sports like it, there are many different indicators and causes of this cognitive disease. The first is that throughout their careers footballers are exposed to intense mental demands, and this can increase their susceptibility to certain mental health problems. The pressure to be an effective member of one’s team, doing their job to help aid in a victory, and not lead to a defeat. The need to be as good as one can be and beat out their competition puts a large amount of stress on the shoulders of these football players. Not only does the player feel pressure from themselves, but also the public thoughts, words, and social media posts affect a football player in a sometimes negative way. The harassment they endure from hateful fans takes a toll on their mental health, leading to depression. Secondly, when a player suffers an injury, they may experience a sense of loss, which leads to common responses to grief including anger and depression. The isolation a teammate feels while they are off getting treatment brings upon a sense of loneliness and frustration, missing out on the practices and activities the team partakes in. The depression also links with the possible ending of a career with severe injuries. Along with that, an athlete that has become depressed may become injured easier because their reaction time decreases and they don’t perform to a level as high as they once did. Lastly, in the football population, the intense level of activity can lead to a compromise in mental health. When players are overexposed to high levels of training and matches and are unable to get enough recovery (both physical and mental), it can lead to overtraining and burnout. As football is year-round for many athletes, they aren’t able to take a break from the stresses on the mind and body football creates, leading to depression. Depression is a serious matter that shouldn’t be taken lightly because it can lead to suicide, as it did for 21-year-old, Tyler Hilinski, later diagnosed with CTE from all the hits he took in his college career.

The rational part of a teen’s brain isn’t fully developed and won’t be until age twenty-five or so. With this being said, the hard contact and brain collusions of younger adolescents have been destructive to the development of their brains. There must be a change that doesn’t allow this type of contact to occur, for children to get the maximum growth for their cognitive health. Recently, two California lawmakers have introduced a bill that would ban organized tackle football before high school, which would hopefully prevent young athletes from sustaining long-term brain damage caused by repetitive tackling, hitting, and blocking. If this bill is successful, hopefully, states around it will follow through with the same laws, creating a safer environment for the younger children. In a Sports Illustrated article, Kimberley Archie states: “‘Flag Until 14 is the future’, says Archie, referring to a national movement to get kids out of shoulder pads and helmets—to end tackle football before ninth grade—‘and the sooner these ding-dongs in the NFL pull their heads out of their asses, the better chance they have of saving their sport’”. By at least limiting tackle football until high school, the dangers are decreased and give more room for the brain to correctly develop. No matter the age requirement, children from the age of five up to eighteen can be at risk for a concussion, CTE, and later on even depression. The only way to effectively ensure children are developing correctly is to cut the participation of these sports, which would ultimately cause an uproar among the fans and conservative families of America. However, in the view of the children, it could most definitely save lives. As of right now, there will be no immediate change and only minor modifications can be made. First of all, schools have to immediately remove students who may have suffered a concussion from any athletic activity, and parents and guardians have to sign forms acknowledging the risks of concussions. This will ensure players receive the right amount of rest and break from sports to heal properly. Lowering the contact at practice will help to make the players safer and less likely to get hurt. Along with that, even teaching players how to safely tackle or block could save a child from an injury that could be avoided. If football can’t be banned from younger children, at least there are some ways to make it safer while still allowing them to play.

Parents should definitely discourage their children from playing in rough, painful, and dangerous contact sports. As entertaining and amusing football may be, are the lives of the players really worth it? With all the hype and excitement this sport brings, there is a much greater default that comes with it. Not only do the many concussions or brain injuries cause CTE, but they also cause the player to be more prone to depression, making them feel lonely, angry, and even thoughts of suicide. Therefore, I am convinced that football should be banned among children.

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