PeeWee Football PlayersFor most people, playing sports can be fun, exciting, and a good way to test your personal endurance. Sports are also a way to teach teamwork, competitiveness, and responsibility, especially for young people.

A famous author once described major sports as being like a war except that no one gets shot. Indeed, some sports can be filled with injuries, adversity, and even aggression and many parents wonder whether they should not let their children play contact sports.

What is a contact sport?

Contact sports are defined as those games and activities in which opponents come into direct physical contact with each other, not by accident but as a regular part of the competition. Although the goal of contact sports is usually to get the ball, puck, or whatever away from the opposite team to score a point for your side, this is typically done with lots of pushing, bumping, and bodily impact.

The legendary coach Vince Lombardi once quipped that the term “contact sport” should be reserved for activities like dancing and that athletics like football should be called collision sports. Certainly, when you witness all the smashing, falling, and body crunching action of sports like hockey, football, and wrestling, you may believe that he was right.

What are the advantages of letting children play contact sports?

The benefits of playing sports are numerous. Studies have shown that, in addition to the increased physical activity, which all kids need, sports also have mental and lifestyle advantages.

Researchers have found that children who are involved in sports are less likely to engage in destructive behaviors like alcohol and drug use. Student athletes also tend to have more self-confidence and fare better academically. Sports are also said to help teach leadership, resilience, and the importance of cooperation. These are all skills that children can draw on for their rest of their lives.

Many parents are currently weighing the pros and cons of allowing children to play contact sports, sometimes pitting dads against moms. Their decision can affect the entire family, maybe even for generations to come.

A bit of research and education about all the facts could help you make up your mind. Nevertheless, some believe the issue can be solved by just waiting a while. For example, you may want to find programs where hard contact is not permitted until a certain age or one that stresses conditioning and socialization instead of pressure about winning and losing.

It can be argued that children can and do get injured all the time, and not just from playing sports. Actions like climbing trees, riding a bike, or simply horsing around can cause bruises, sprains, and broken bones. In addition, they may also get hurt while participating in team activities that are not considered contact sports such as skiing, tennis, gymnastics, and track and field events.

Therefore, unless you are planning to wrap your children in foam and leave them in an empty room, it is impossible to avoid all injury. Prohibiting contact sports will only eliminate a few ways to get hurt.

What factors should you consider before letting your child play contact sports?

Contact sports can be very dangerous. Even when following the rules and wearing proper equipment, injuries can occur.

Perhaps the most frightening are those that affect the head and can lead to brain damage or worse over a period of time. When participation in contact sports begins in childhood and continues throughout college and beyond, this can equal more than a decade of repetitive strain and tough bumps and blows on the body. This may affect children even more because their bodies and brains have not grown to their full potential.

Today, more is known about the potential long-term damage that can occur as a result of continual participation in contact sports. Former professional athletes, most notably football players and boxers, have come forward to share and discuss their medical issues and how they have been affected by the years of severe physical trauma they have endured by giving their all to the sport they love.

In response, sports organizations, the medical community, scientists, and inventors are coming together to figure out how these sports can be made safer through equipment innovations, better rules of play, and advanced research. Some parents and sporting groups have called for changes in contact sports for young children, such as not being allowed to head balls in soccer games or check each other in hockey events, as well as decreasing the intensity of hits during practice.

Ultimately, it is up to parents to make informed decisions based on their individual circumstances and families on whether to let children participate in contact sports. In addition, proper equipment, good training, the right coach, and a healthy attitude about sports in general should be considered as part of the resolution.