Why I'll never let my kids play football

With every patient and every family, I have a certain tally of good will. It’s impossible to quantify, and varies from person to person. The longer and better my physician-patient relationship, the bigger the store. While I believe I have a pretty good reserve with most of the patients in my practice, I would be a fool to think the supply is infinite with any of them.

Advising parents to pull their kids out of America’s most popular sport would cause much of that good will to evaporate. It would mean a genuine loss in quality of life for many patients and their families, to mitigate a risk that has yet to be well defined. If a patient is not yet playing football and a parent asks for my opinion, I gladly share it. However, for patients who are already playing high school football, I don’t tell them to stop. They all get a thorough discussion of concussions and are told to err on the side of caution if they ever have any doubt if they’ve sustained one (off goes the helmet for the rest of the game, and no return to play until they’ve been medically cleared), but that’s as far as it goes.

If I had my wish, football would suffer a sudden and irreversible drop in popularity. I think the havoc it can wreak on players’ brains is not worth the risk, to say nothing of the potential for catastrophic orthopedic injuries. My choice as a parent is clear.

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