Study: One-third of Parents Won’t Let Children Play Football

Citing concerns over concussions, a third of Valley parents say they will not allow their children to play football, according to a study by Barrow Neurological Institute.

At the same time, 80 percent of parents surveyed say they would allow their children to play some form of contact sport. Contact sports include soccer, hockey and basketball, as well as football. This is a 14 percent jump over a similar survey in 2014. The question specifically about participation in football was added this year, so there is no year-over-year comparison.

The poll was conducted to determine public response to the increased visibility of concussions and brain injuries in sports. Much of the media coverage has focused on pro football; the NFL announced recently that concussions had increased by 58 percent in the 2015 regular season.

The survey results on football seem to track with a 7 percent drop in football participation in Arizona high schools, and a 41 percent drop among girls, according to National Federation of State High School Associations data from the 2014 season. The sport still has by far the most participants in Arizona.

“This survey sounds a warning bell for the future of football,” said Dr. Javier Cárdenas, a neurologist and director of the Barrow Concussion and Brain Injury Center at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix. “It seems that increased public awareness about concussions among football players is having an impact on participation numbers. Clearly, more needs to be done to make the sport safer”

Dr. Cárdenas serves on the NFL’s Head, Neck and Spine Committee and as a sideline physician at Arizona State University football games. His son plays flag football.

Opinions about football participation varied greatly based upon household income. In families with incomes under $55,000 per year, nine out of 10 parents said they would allow their children to play football compared to only about half of those whose incomes were more than $55,000.

The survey also found that 84 percent of respondents believe concussions are “a serious medical condition,” a result nearly identical with the 2014 survey. And 71 percent said they had become more aware of concussions in the last year or two, a percentage consistent with the 2014 survey.

Despite increased awareness, eight of 10 parents acknowledge that they would allow their children to play some form of contact sports, up from seven of 10 in 2014.

“It’s interesting to note this increase,” Dr. Cárdenas said. “This may reflect the increased knowledge that concussions are treatable and the vast majority of people have a full recovery.”

The study was conducted in January 2016 with a sample of 402 randomly selected Phoenix adults. Of these, 123 were parents of a child or children under the age of 18. The margin of error is plus or minus 5% at 95% confidence for the full sample (402), and plus or minus 8.8% among parents (123).