What's More Dangerous, Football or These Activities?

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Interviewer:  You talked about the sports, at least in football, being
safer now than it's ever been. You're on the sideline on a weekly basis,
I've had the privilege of being on a sideline at NFL games as well. When
you see those guys, I mean 6'8", 320 pounds and how fast they move . . .

Dr. Maroon:  Yeah.

Interviewer:  . . . and they're getting bigger and faster and stronger, is
there a concern that it's not going to be safe? You go back to even college
and high school, all athletes across sport are getting bigger, faster,

Dr. Maroon:  No, you're exactly right. It's a physical principal, force is
equal to mass times acceleration. High school physics. Bigger masses,
acceleration, quicker surfaces, artificial turf, all of these factors do
make for more forces being generated. But I think we really have to
separate the NFL from the 3.8 million kids playing Pop Warner and USA Today
football. It's not that way because they're age and weight matched. The
incidents of injuries, particularly concussions, in that cohort is very,
very low. It's much more dangerous to ride a bike, to go skateboarding, to
ride a horse, to ski than it is for these kids to play football.

The number one cause of death at all ages, from four to 21, is accidents.
And of these, it's car accidents. So, I think, the question is, would you
let your son play football? And my response to that is, well, would you let
them ride a bike? Would you let them get on a skateboard? Would you let
them ride a horse? Would you let them get in a car? Particularly by
themselves, while they're texting? So, you know, it's a balance. And then I
think we can overlook the positives that come from participating,
particularly in football.

I was talking to one of the Steeler's coaches a couple of weeks ago right
before the game. We played Baltimore and we were having dinner, and I asked
him, you know, what is it that kids learn from the sport, that they can't
learn in other sports? Well, you take soccer. I said well, I'll let my kid
play soccer. Well, the incidents of concussions from soccer, particularly
in girls, is much higher than it is from football. Female soccer players
have more concussions, cheerleaders have more concussions, than football.

But the obvious lessons learned, number one, teamwork. Camaraderie. Playing
when there's a little discomfort and you still don't quit. Leadership.
Doulgas MacArthur, when he was commandant at West Point... a real military
leader, one who had to choose men for different assignments, had inscribed,
chiseled into granite over the portals of the gymnasium that overlooked the
playing fields at West Point. Lacrosse, soccer, field hockey, football,
baseball. And he had inscribed "On the fields of friendly strife are sown
the seeds that on other days and on other fields will lead to victory."

And these are the kind of lessons I think that you get from football that
you may not get from other sports.

The question of whether or not football is getting too dangerous for kids continues. Dr. Joseph Maroon is chief neurosurgeon with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He discusses the increase in size, strength and speed of athletes and if that's going to make football too dangerous in the future. He also discusses many other common activities that see far more injuries than football.

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