No Game for Boys to Play
Contemporary debates over head injuries in youth football are at a crossroads, with competing framings of the risks of traumatic brain injuries resulting in significantly different potential responses to addressing the sport’s risks. The prevailing framework, shaped in many ways by the NFL and other sports organizations, suggests that improved adult supervision, return-to-play guidelines, better helmet design, and other similar strategies can sufficiently address the risks of youth football. An alternative interpretation of the scientific evidence on sub-concussive hits, however, indicates that the full-body collisions associated with tackling carry inherent risks of brain trauma that cannot be substantially reduced. The cultural values and meanings attached to youth football inform these contemporary debates, as well as the possible future of America’s most popular sport.
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