Arians: Parents ‘Fools’ if They Deny Kids Football

  • Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians speaks during a news conference at last month’s NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.

Washington Post
Published: 3/26/2016 12:35:19 AM

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones recently made news when he said it was “absurd” to suggest that a clear link had been established between football and CTE. Now another major NFL figure, Arizona Cardinals Coach Bruce Arians, is pushing back against the sport’s reported connection to brain injuries.

In fact, Arians told Sports Illustrated’s Peter King in a video published Wednesday, “People who say, ‘I won’t let my son play it,’ are fools.”

Arians pointed to “DNA tests” that he said can “tell you the chances of your child having a concussion, or should they play a contact sport of any kind.” In recent years, tests have been developed that look for a gene marker that may indicate a person’s propensity for recovering slowly from head trauma.

Overall, Arians’s point in his comments to King was that football is “the greatest game in the world,” and that people who avoid it based on fears of concussions are doing themselves a disservice. “I think it teaches more values than any other game that you play,” Arians said.

“You have things that happen in your life that aren’t going to be good,” the 63-year-old coach added. “If you play football, you know how to handle them. It doesn’t necessarily equate in track and other things.” Other sports, Arians said, “are not as physical, and you don’t grow as a man — or a woman, if you play the game — like you should, in other sports.

“We have this fear of concussion, that is real,” Arians continued, appearing to choose his words carefully, “but not all of those, I think … statistics can prove anything. We’ve got new helmets coming out; we’ve got safety issues. There are more more concussions in girls’ soccer than in football at that age, the number two sport with concussions is women’s soccer, but no one says we’ve got to stop playing soccer.”

A 2015 study found that, as soccer has grown in popularity, so have the numbers of concussions among high school players, and that girls suffered concussions at a higher rate than boys. However, an author of the study told CNN, “The rate is certainly much lower than football. Football is more than double that.”

Just as governing bodies such as U.S. Soccer have sought to address the issue of concussions by proposing to limit or even ban youth players heading the ball, some suggest that football could be made safer if players’ exposure to tackling was drastically reduced. For example, Ivy League coaches recently agreed to remove player-on-player tackling drills during regular-season practices.

Chris Nowinski, a former Harvard football player who co-founded the Concussion Legacy Foundation, recently told The Post that he would like to see tackling in football banned until the high school level. That way, given that a relative handful move on to college football and a tiny fraction make it to the pros, most football players will have just four years’ worth of such exposure to potential brain injuries.

Prior to that, Nowinski suggested, kids could learn and enjoy the sport by playing flag football. But perhaps that’s not “physical” enough for Arians’ liking.

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