Are Your Kids Too Young to Play Sports?

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They say it's like a car wreck. The most severe football hits can have a greater impact than even the impact of a severe car accident.

But the giants of the gridiron we cheer on Saturdays and Sundays are full grown. What happens when a kid starts throwing their body around like that?

Dr. Heather Bradley works with children who sustain concussions while playing sports. She says the risks for kids are clear.

"When you're talking about sports, in particular contact sports, they tend to sustain injury quicker, partly because their muscular/skeletal system, particularly in this area (the neck/shoulders), is not as well developed, and so they can't absorb the impact and diffuse it throughout the body as easily as an adult can," said the Tallahassee Memorial Hospital clinical neuropsychologist.

The Youth Sports Safety Alliance says that around 8000 children are treated in emergency rooms each day for sports injuries around the country. Every year there can be anywhere between 100000 300000 sports related conscussions, and there are five times as many catastrophic football injuries among high school athletes compared to college athletes.

"Contact sports, in my professional opinion, particularly for children 12 and under, you're putting them at unnecessary risk for sustaining brain damage," said Dr. Bradley.

But it can't be all bad, can it? Derrick Redding coaches the Tom Brown Park 8 to 10 year old football team in Tallahassee. He started playing football when he was five and it took him to the pros. To fill the void now, he coaches.

"The ups of doing it is you get to change a kids life at an early age. A lot of times you get a kid who might not have a father figure at home or he needs something constructive to do. That's the enjoyable part about it, I get to touch a child's life at a young age," said Redding before one of Tom Brown's games.

It's not always easy...

"You try to get an 8 year old to learn 40 football plays it's pretty difficult. The attention span is not very long, you have their attention for a little bit then they're off talking about 'Sponge Bob,'" said the coach.

But he keeps the kids active, and that's just one of the health benefits that youths sports provides.

For football Dads like Jason Pappas, the risk of injury to his young son was offset by the positive impacts of the game.

"I think at the end of the day it gives them the opportunity to learn the techniques correctly and to make sure they use fundamentals so that won't even be an issue as long as they get taught at a young age," said Pappas while on the sidelines of his son's game.

So how do we keep the positives and get rid of the negatives? Dr. Bradley and Coach Redding agree that it's about how the kids are taught to play.

Tallahasse Parks and Recs Athletic Supervisor Brian Smatt agrees, and also adds that the coaches needs to be informed.

"It starts with the training, and it starts with practice time to game time, making sure the coaches know the signs and symptoms of a concussion, headaches, stuff like that," said Smatt.

Hopefully this focus on safety will lead to bright futures for our young stars.

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