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Parents struggle with decision to allow kids to play football

10:36 PM, Jan 30, 2013   |    comments
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By Art Holliday

ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - "He's asking once a week, 'am I playing football next fall, am I playing football next fall?" said Karl Frank about his son. "He knows the risk, but he doesn't care. He's eleven."

It's been two years since 11-year-old Kurtis Frank played football and now he wants to play again. His father Karl is wrestling with the decision.

"I value his brain over other things and that's what he's going to need in the long term," he said.

As 100 million Americans get set to watch the Super Bowl, the safety of football players at all levels is a hot topic.

President Obama, a football fan, said if he had a son, he'd have to think long and hard about allowing him to play the game.

Kurt Warner made a similar statement last year about being concerned about his sons playing the game.

Thousands of former players are suing the National Football League regarding concussions suffered while playing for the league. While the game has never been more popular, there's never been as much talk about concussions and player safety.

"The professional athletes have started this conversation," said Bob Franey, a parent of two young football players. "The parents see that. They hear that conversation and obviously they're concerned."

Franey is President of the Mehlville Junior Panthers football organization. Both his sons play organized football. He says preventing concussions is an ongoing discussion in his league.

"When you have professional football players who commit suicide and they blame that on concussions he received in football, and you have the president of the United States making comments about concussions in a sport, then we have to be very proactive about that to reassure our parent community that we're actually doing something about this and we can ensure the safety of their children," he said.

Franey says his junior football league is taking several precautions to protect the brains of young players. The league uses the latest helmet designs to absorb more impact, emphasizes proper tackling technique without using the helmet, and a takes a baseline of the brains of young players in case of a concussion.

Last season Lindenwood University Coach Pat Ross saw one of his players, Sterling Thomas, suffer a spinal cord injury. But Ross doesn't hesitate to let his 10-year-old son Cade play football.

"The awareness of the league my son plays in for concussions is outstanding. If there's any sign of concussion they're going to stop playing right away," said Ross. "The reason I like my son playing at this age is he's learning the proper technique and the proper ways to handle himself on the field and as he grows and the game becomes faster, he's prepared for it."

Meanwhile, Karl Frank's son awaits his father's decision about whether he can play football next fall.

"I just don't want to want to be the guy that's responsible for putting him in a situation, my son, in a situation where when he gets to be 40 or 50 where all of a sudden he's forgetting things or getting dementia," said Frank.

On Wednesday, Glenn Beckmann, Director of Marketing for Schutt Sports, sat down with NewsChannel 5's Mike Bush to talk about the safety of football helmets. 

Click here to watch the interview.

 

KSDK

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