Should Children Be Allowed To Play Contact Sports?

Former Wrestler Questions The Safety Of Allowing Children To Play Contact Sports


A former wrestler has suggested more should be done to protect children against head injuries when playing sport.

Chris Nowinski - who also played American football - suffered a serious concussion in 2003 and he was eventually forced to retire.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 live, he said a recent study showed repetitive brain trauma can cause long-term brain damage, which is why youngsters should not be introduced to contact sports  until a later age.

He also believes children must not be allowed to head a football until they have reached a certain stage in their development.

The campaigner suggested there are plenty of sports available that can help people to stay fit without putting them in danger.

"If we have so many other options out there, like we get them running and being active, why play sports which include hundreds of blows to the head, knowing how bad the consequences are?" he was quoted as saying.

Mr Nowinski believes footballers are better placed to deal with the impact of headers once they have reached their teen years and 20s. He added that more medical staff are usually on the sidelines during games involving older athletes.

"We can still play those games without contact but who thinks it's a good idea to hit a ten-year-old in the head 200 or 300 times a season?" he added.

Mr Nowinski also suggested there is a general lack of awareness about concussion and the long-term impact this can have on a person.

His comments come shortly after Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur were criticised for allowing goalkeeper Hugo Lloris to continue playing in a match against Everton after suffering a head injury.

It has resulted in calls for the rules to be changed, whereby any player who is knocked unconscious during a game is immediately substituted.

Having a universal law in place would take the decision out of the hands of medical staff and would ensure injured players receive immediate treatment.

Expert Opinion
The debate surrounding head injuries and concussion in sport shows no signs of abating and it is likely that the issue will also run on through 2014 too.

"Our work means we see first-hand the consequences of head and brain injuries and it is vital that the relevant medical and sporting bodies continue to investigate the issue and to ensure best practices are adopted within contact sports at all levels, so as to sensibly manage any identified risks.

"Recent incidents seen in football and rugby, to name but two sports, have shown that this is not an issue which can be ignored and it is vital action is taken to properly assess what consequences playing such sports is having on competitors and how training and officiating can be adapted to protect participants.

"Huge numbers of people regularly play contact sports at all levels. The enjoyment of such sports is a positive aspect of our society and with proper research and education about this issue, that need not change.

"Better information will allow competitors, teams and medical professionals to make more informed decisions regarding what can be done to protect sportspeople from the potential risks they may face while playing the sports they love."
Stephen Nye, Partner