LeBron James is widely regarded as the best athlete in the world of sports. He has an array of accolades that include two NBA championships (and still counting), two finals MVP awards, four league MVP awards, ten-time all-star, scoring champion, and countless others. He will undoubtedly be a first-ballot hall of famer once his time on the court comes to an end. As impressive as his legacy has been thus far, his legacy off the court with his children is equally important to LeBron. LeBron Jr. and Bryce Maximus share an unconditional love of sports much like their father; however, there are some sports they will not have the privilege to partake in for quite sometime.
Before leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to a decisive victory over the Denver Nuggets last week, LeBron made comments regarding his reluctance to letting his children play football. He cited the health dangers related to the physical nature of the game as the primary reason. As we are all aware, football is the most violent contact sport in North America. There have been numerous incidences of players suffering gruesome injuries, but none more prevalent than concussions.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines concussion(s) as “a type of traumatic brain injury, or TBI, caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head that can change the way your brain normally works.” The definition does not illustrate the severity the injury truly entails. Concussions have the potential to permanently damage the cognitive functioning of an athlete, especially the youth. Changes in our ability to think, speak, eat, drink, etc. can be lost if the situation is not handled properly.
LeBron’s reservations are warranted. I think if I had children of my own, I would not allow him or her (yes, woman are just as capable of playing football as men) to participate either. According to the CDC, the frequency of “traumatic brain injuries in sports are second only to motor vehicle crashes in high-school and college aged students.” You can imagine that number increases when you expose children to contact sports at a younger age. Parents across the country aren’t willing to expose their children to such risk.
The National Football League has been under much scrutiny over the past several years as it struggled with lawsuits from former player suffering from chronic, debilitating brain conditions. Even as the league has taken steps towards reducing the number of concussions, there are still players who are continuing to play through such injuries despite medical advice. The irresponsible behavior by these players has direct influence on members of the youth football community. When watching their favorite player walk off the field after a helmet-to-helmet hit, and then return only a few players later, wouldn’t that make a young athlete feel invisible as well? I hate to pose hypothetical questions, but as a parent it has to make you reconsider what activities you wish to have you child enroll in.
Now, James’ comments did not go without criticism. ESPN radio personality and former NFL veteran, Mike Golic shared his response on LeBron forbidding his children from playing the sport:
“I completely shove it. Football, to me, is especially at the youth league, is as safe as its ever been. There is such a premium now on playing football, on concussion awareness, on equipment fitting, [and] on proper tackling. The NFL’s “Heads Up” program, which I think is fantastic for kids, to learn to hit the right way. The next generations of our players are going to tackle better and have better fundamentals and technique. It’s not going to get rid of all injuries. People make it sound like the sky is falling. That’s why my wife is out there mostly talking with moms. She was out at clinic in Detroit this past weekend. We all know, for the most part, moms are making most of the decisions a lot on their kids playing or not. When you have the stars come out, I can’t stand when they blatantly say that. It (Youth Football) is as safe as it has ever been to play.”
I respect Mike Golic heavily. I listen to him almost every morning on ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the morning. He provides a unique insight into the world of a professional football player. He has played over 7 seasons in the NFL, many of which he played through injury. But on the issue of concussions in youth sports, I have to stand against his comments. For children as young as Lebron Jr. and Bryce Maximus, they are much more susceptible to concussions and other traumatic brain injuries while participating in contact sports, such as football. The fact is, a child’s brain is still in the process of development. There is a lack of myelinated-covered nerve fibers that allow communication between the brain and the rest of the body. With the right amount of force and acceleration, these fibers have the potential to rupture, possibly resulting in a concussion.
I do not want to persuade anyone from barring their children from playing contact sports, such as football, but I wish they took the time to examine the true risks involved within the game itself. There will always be risk. There will always be the chance for injury, but injuries that can be prevented deserve our greatest attention.