Parents wary of football concussions but let kids play other contact sports
PHOENIX – For the first time, a majority of Arizona parents report they will forbid their kids from playing football due to concerns over concussions.
But the concerns are not consistent throughout other contact sports that also have a high risk for concussions, according to a survey by Phoenix’s Barrow Neurological Institute.
The percentage of parents who allow their child to play contact sports has increased for the first time in three years, especially in girls’ soccer which has a relatively high concussion risk.
“There’s somewhat of an irony in that because over the last decade or so, we have actually implemented a number of policies and regulations to reduce the amount of head injuries, specifically in football,” Dr. Javier Cárdenas, director of the Barrow Concussion and Brain Injury Center at Barrow Neurological Institute told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Tuesday.
Barrow over the last five years has surveyed both high school athletes and their parents to understand the role of concussions in sports today.
Greater awareness of concussions in both professional and youth sports has led to widespread concern over the long-term effects of brain injuries – and that’s reflected in Barrow’s recent survey.
The percentage of Arizona parents allowing football has steadily declined, from 68% in 2016 to 47% this year.
The survey also shows the percentage of parents who allowed contact sports dropped from 82% in 2017 to 74% in 2018 and 65% in 2019. This year, the number grew slightly to 71%.
While concerns over concussions in football have reduced the number of children in the game, one of the most at-risk sports for concussions has remained steady.
The survey found 84% of Arizona parents say they would allow their children to play soccer. In soccer, concussions most often happen when players both going for the ball collide in the air.
Girls’ high school soccer participation in Arizona has climbed at virtually the same rate that football has declined – from 5,298 in 2008-09 to 6,489 in 2018-19.
The participation numbers remain high despite reports that girls’ soccer concussion rates approach those of football. Cárdenas credits that to shorter football seasons compared to longer soccer seasons.
Barrow’s recent survey indicates that 30% of high school athletes report they have suffered a concussion. Of that 30%, 60% are worried about the long-term effects.
“This is something we take seriously,” Dr. Cárdenas said. “When we started this project, we were looking at secondary injuries like a bleed in or brain swelling.”
These surveys today indicate the major concern of repetitive head injuries and the consequences it can have long-term.