Every fall, parents of would-be football and soccer players weigh the pros and cons of sending their young athletes out on the gridiron or the soccer pitch. Can they make the decision on whether to let their kids play knowing there’s scientific certainty to back up their conclusion — yes, it’s safe to play; no, it’s not — one way or the other? In short, no.
The decision on whether to let kids play is a balancing act — like anything else in life. Families have different tolerances for risk. “You’ve got healthy lifestyles and kids being active; teamwork, sportsmanship and learning how to win and lose with grace,” said Dr. Kody Moffatt, whose 17-year-old son plays hockey and lacrosse — sports where there also can be hard hits. Moffatt said there’s no science to support age limits on tackle football. The American Academy of Pediatrics concluded in a clinical statement last fall that delaying tackling may reduce the risk of injury at those ages but could lead to higher rates of injury later, when players are bigger and stronger.