Concussions And Youth Sports

Reader TA emails:

[quote]I am currently watching Highly Questionable on ESPN 2 and they did a segment with Sean Pamphilon who just released a documentary, ‘The United States of Football’. It gives a deep look into the head trauma and what effect concussions really do have on players.[/quote]

[quote]My question came up when Sean began to speak of how football at the youth level is really going to change- he even compared football to becoming more similar to the military. Only certain people will play it.

I would love to hear all of your thoughts on this. With the new science that is out there around headaches and trauma, do you believe that could open opportunities for ultimate to grow much quicker in the near future at the youth level?[/quote]

I played football in middle school and early high school and found that it was a huge driver of my athletic growth and discipline at that age. I do believe that, with proper instruction and warnings, football can be played safely at the youth levels.

That said, as the floodgates continue to open up on the NFL’s concussion scandal (which won’t neatly go away after the $765 million settlement), I do expect to see football’s youth participation take a hit. What parent wants to put their child at risk of brain damage?

Does that open a door for ultimate to gain new players? Maybe at the margin. I actually think there are a lot of other, more important steps that will explode youth ultimate, like consistent coaching, more schools buying in to it as a real sport, and simply getting discs into kids’ hands in PE class.

There are a lot of things that kids can choose to do with their time. There’s a multitude of sports, music classes, art classes, and more to fill up anyone’s calendar. What sets ultimate apart? I don’t think it’s a lack of injury risk.

Ultimate has two critical things that make it incredibly appealing to kids (and parents): it’s really fun, and it’s really cheap. You don’t need a bunch of equipment to play — just a light, a dark, and a pair of cleats.

The game is also naturally fun — it is so rare to find someone who has played and not enjoyed themselves. Throwing a disc is amazingly fun; chasing one down in the endzone may be even better.

So while I think the ailments of other sports could contribute in small amounts to the growth of ultimate, there’s so much more that we can do to build it that it’s not even worth spending time thinking about how to “steal” kids from other sports.

If you build it, they will come.

Have a question for Charlie? Email him at [email protected].


  1. Charlie Eisenhood
    Charlie Eisenhood

    Charlie Eisenhood is the editor-in-chief of Ultiworld.You can reach him by email ([email protected]) or on Twitter (@ceisenhood).

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