Threat of Concussion Worth the Risk in Youth Sports? (This Mom Says Yes.)

a year ago

I’ll be the first to admit that I can be a helicopter parent. I’ve said, "Be careful!" and " and “Get down before you get hurt!” more than my fair share of times. I’ve hovered below her on the monkey bars, I’ve slowed her down on the ice, and I’ve told her "no" just because "it scares mommy."

But then I pull back and remember that she knows her boundaries. She knows what she is and isn’t capable of.


Photo Credit: Jenn Jones Nienaber.

So even though I say, "Be Careful" and "Slow down," I also let her play soccer and hockey. Yes, soccer and hockey -- two sports that are getting a lot of attention for being dangerous, and for causing a large number of concussions. In fact, on the list of the 11 most dangerous sports for children, soccer is number five and hockey is number 10. But also, riding a bike comes in at number two.

My daughter is six and a natural athlete. She’s in her third year of organized hockey, and she knows she can stop quickly or slow down on the ice if she needs to. She can drop to her knees or bail from a sled that’s speeding down a hill. She can run through a play or turn around if the ball is kicked the other way. And she figured these things out by herself through playing and practice.

When she was born, my husband and I never doubted that we’d let her play hockey. We both play, and it was the reason a mutual friend set us up. My husband has played hockey for 40 years, as well as football through high school, and I’ve played hockey since I started college. We’ve had some injuries: he broke a small bone in his foot and has had dozens of stitches, while I separated a shoulder and tore ligaments in my wrist. Neither of us has had a concussion.

Yet when she puts on her skates and hits the ice, the risk of an injury still crosses my mind. She could twist a knee, fall hard or hit her head. But she could do the same thing at the playground or running in the backyard. Or chasing the dog down the stairs. Or riding in the back seat of our 5-star crash test rated SUV while buckled into her high-end booster seat. Or even, riding her bike. Anything is possible and the statistics prove it:

  • Center for Disease Control estimates reveal that 1.6 million to 3.8 million concussions occur each year with falling being the greatest cause.
  • 5-10% of athletes will experience a concussion in any given sport season.
  • Soccer is the most common sport with concussion risk for females.

The statistics don’t lie and, as a parent, they are downright frightening. But I never would consider holding her back from a sport she loves, a sport we all love, just because Something Might Happen.

Even knowing the statistics and risks, there is no doubt that we’ll let our daughter continue to play for as long as she’d like. She might get hurt at some point. In fact, chances are pretty good that she’ll have an injury sometime before she’s 18. Still, there is nothing as satisfying as seeing your child glow with happiness playing a sport they really enjoy. And when I see her smiling face hiding behind her face mask I know we made the right decision.

Until the game is no longer fun, whether it’s soccer or hockey or something she hasn’t tried yet, we’re going to let her play. We’re going to let her ride her scooter and bike (with a helmet). We’re going to let her chase the dog, swing on the monkey bars, fly high in the swing, and keep playing soccer and hockey.

Jenn Jones Nienaber

www.paperandclouds.net

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