Former NFL star Larry Csonka, a bulldozer at running back who helped lead the Miami Dolphins to a perfect season in 1972, has a message that perhaps only tough guys can effectively get across to some people. Miami Herald File Photo File Photo
Former NFL star Larry Csonka, a bulldozer at running back who helped lead the Miami Dolphins to a perfect season in 1972, has a message that perhaps only tough guys can effectively get across to some people. Miami Herald File Photo File Photo

Football

Here’s how to let kids play football while preventing brain injury, ‘wussification’

By Mike Reader

mreader@charlotteobserver.com

May 20, 2017 11:59 AM

UPDATED May 20, 2017 08:03 PM

If you think that Larry Csonka isn’t tough, you’re mistaken.

And the former NFL star, a bulldozer at running back who helped lead the Miami Dolphins to a perfect season in 1972, has a message that perhaps only tough guys can effectively get across to some people.

A child running around on a Pop Warner field with a sloppy helmet isn’t cute to me ... it’s an outrage!

Larry Csonka, former NFL star

“Kids shouldn’t play tackle football until junior high for a few reasons,” Csonka wrote in a blog on his website. “In many cases, they are not well coached and, more importantly, not properly equipped. A child running around on a Pop Warner field with a sloppy helmet isn’t cute to me ... it’s an outrage!”

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Orlando Sentinel columnist George Diaz, in a column posted Thursday, cited Csonka along with a couple of other tough guys – former pro wrestler Christopher Nowinski and teammate Nick Buoniconti – in making a case against tackle football for youngsters. Tough guys help get a point across in a column he knows will draw the “obligatory eye roll” from people worried about the “wussification” of today’s youth.

(Flag football is) much safer, still exposes kids to the game, and chances are great that they won’t walk away from the game in a fuzzy haze.

George Diaz, Orlando Sentinel

Diaz cites some grim statistics. For instance, 96 percent of deceased NFL players and 79 percent of all football players studied in autopsies exhibited CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) a progressive and degenerative brain disease.

Nowinski, author of “Head Games: Football’s Concussion Crisis” and considered an authoritative source on sports and head traumas, says that the more scientists learn about CTE, “the more clear it is that youth tackle football was never meant to be.”

All-star team of CHOP, Penn, @ShipleySports teaming up to study sports #concussions in teens https://t.co/VKrQIoekCJ via @thephillyvoice

— Chris Nowinski (@ChrisNowinski1) May 16, 2017

Diaz writes that evidence indicates that a “horror ... awaits if someone plays a lifetime of contact sports.” However, “not nearly enough parents are listening. Most, in fact, are tuning out.”

Diaz cites a study reporting the number of children ages 6-12 playing tackle football is rising.

The columnist offers a compromise, a safer alternative to tackle football for those children: Flag football.

“It’s much safer, still exposes kids to the game, and chances are great that they won’t walk away from the game in a fuzzy haze.”

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