The NFL Super Bowl XLIX was watched by millions of people, but will the event be around forever? With the NFL concussion lawsuit in the spotlight, football youth participation has been steadily declining. According to ESPN, Pop Warner, the United States’ largest youth football organization, saw a 9.5 percent decrease in registration in just two years.
According to the New York Times, the NFL hopes to keep kids playing football by hosting workshops for mothers to reassure them that the game is safe. Mothers are taught how to square their feet like a linebacker and how to tackle safely.
“For moms, it’s less X’s and O’s and more safety and directions,” says Mike Haynes, a former NFL defensive lineman.
Youth participation is integral in maintaining NFL talent and a strong fan base. But will this be enough?
Just this past Wednesday, the Official Journal of the American Academy of Neurology released a study that found NFL retirees who began playing tackle football before they turned 12 were at increased risk of developing memory and thinking problems compared with players who started playing later on. Both groups of former players scored below average, but those who began playing before they turned 12 were found to have performed 20 percent worse.
Some mothers found the program useful. “I learned a lot and I can take that information back to him,” said Rebecca Morgan in the New York Times, whose 15-year-old son plays high school football. “As a nurse, it gets me scared.”
For More Information
- To Allay Fears, NFL Huddles with Mothers, New York Times
- Learn more about Moms Clinics hosted by NFL teams, NFL
- Age of first exposure to football and later-life cognitive impairment in former NFL players, The Official Journal of the American Academy of Neurology
- Youth football participation drops, ESPN