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New Poll Shows Americans’ Growing Awareness about Concussions in Youth Sports

Hgh school football players often begins before dawn. Photo by Steven Hausler Hays/AP Photo
The work for high school football players often begins before dawn. (Steven Hausler Hays Daily News/AP Photo)

07/20/2016
Washington Post
By Cindy Boren

Although 80 percent of Americans who participated in a new survey said that playing tackle football was appropriate for adults who are 18 and older, virtually the same number of people (79 percent) said they believe that children under the age of 14 should not play the sport.

A steady stream of information from new studies, coupled with reports of high-profile athletes who have suffered from the effects of concussions, appears to be having an effect on attitudes, with 72 percent of men surveyed now believing that playing tackle football is inappropriate for children under the age of 14. The survey, conducted by the University of Massachusetts-Lowell Center for Public Opinion, also shows that nearly 90 percent of American adults believe that brain trauma that results in chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a serious public health issue.

Opposition to playing football before the age of 14 is strongest among women, with 84 percent opposed and 94 percent opposed to kids playing tackle football before they are 10. Eighty-eight percent of men oppose the idea of kids playing tackle football before they turn 10.

Results weren’t restricted to football. Three out of five respondents said that they do not believe heading a soccer ball is safe for athletes until they reach high school age.

The center surveyed what it said was a representative sample of 1,000 American adults about their attitudes concerning sports safety, head injuries, and the public health implications of concussions and CTE.

“We consider this strong public consensus a broad mandate to continue to advocate for changes to youth sports, and we will continue to recommend to parents that before age 14 they choose flag football rather than tackle football and delay heading in soccer,” Robert Cantu, co-founder and medical director of the Concussion Legacy Foundation, said in a statement released by the CLF.

The foundation estimates that 2.1 million children under the age of 14 play tackle football each year, with 8 million youth soccer players.