Friday, 07 June 2019 21:00

'MATTer of Opinion' Sports Column: Some sports are just too dangerous for kids

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Sports such as boxing and MMA are widely known to be dangerous. 

They can cause permanent injuries that range from ligament tears to more serious ones like chronic traumatic encephalopathy, otherwise known as CTE, which can cause dementia, mood swings, depression and a reduced mental capacity.

Adults know and understand the risks, which is why they should be allowed to participate freely. However, children don't develop their higher reasoning skills until much later in life and can't be trusted to understand the risks.


Therefore, they should be barred from participating in activities that will negatively impact them down the line.

Sports such as football and gymnastics are incredibly popular among children and widely accepted, while other sports such as MMA and boxing have no presence whatsoever in high schools and most colleges due to safety concerns. This doesn't make sense because football and gymnastics can cause similar levels of damage immediately or later in life.

A study done on 241 deceased football players found that 211 of them were diagnosed with CTE, and the rest had signs of other neurological diseases like Alzheimer's. 

For gymnasts, the sobering reason why many of them retire in their early 20s is because their bodies become too broken down to compete anymore. Many moves have been banned even for adults because of how dangerous they are.

It's inconsistent at best to allow certain sports while banning others if they're all roughly equally dangerous. And while boxing and MMA may be more dangerous in a one-off situation, gymnastics and football become far more dangerous when you factor in the frequency and the number of people that participate and receive injuries.

The first reason more people oppose MMA and boxing than football and gymnastics is that sports such as football are deeply ingrained in American culture, so people are already used to it. The phenomenon of people not recognizing the dangers of an activity because of how common it is can be demonstrated with alcohol, a substance that many say would be banned as a dangerous drug if it were invented today.

Alcohol can be a destructive vice that can lead to people beating their spouses, crashing cars and overdosing to the point of death. Though we have tried and, ultimately, decided against prohibition, we still have laws that prevent its consumption up until a certain age. The same standard should be applied to dangerous sports.

The second reason for this discrepancy is that football and gymnastics have injuries that aren't immediately obvious. In MMA or boxing, the audience can tell at once when a person is knocked out based on the way they fall and how their arms lock. However, in sports like gymnastics and football, injuries can be ignored for many years until they can no longer be swept under the rug by athletes, at which point it may be too late to do anything.

Additionally, major injuries with immediate effects such as the loss of consciousness are usually accidents in football and gymnastics, whereas in combat sports they're the goal. This shouldn't make a difference because they both result in the same thing: unconscious kids.

Some parents can't be trusted to make sound decisions for their children, which is why the government needs to step in and ban these activities in the name of public health. Many parents are simply not aware of the potential long-term effect of these sports. However, that seems to be changing as the number of parents enrolling their children in football dwindles.

Unfortunately, a small percentage of parents live vicariously though their children and put their well-being behind their own personal desires. They force children to participate, even though they know the consequences. For example, in gymnastics, many children are enrolled in punishing stretching routines that have adults stepping on them and contorting their bodies.

This goes beyond what children should be subjected to just to give them a shot at a future in the Olympics.

The fact that a small number of these athletes make it big in the Olympics or the NFL is irrelevant. One needs to think about the many kids who didn't make it big and now have lasting injuries with their backs, knees, mental health, etc.

The fact that some of these athletes are glad their parents started them early in these sports is also irrelevant. Children don't have the capacity to consent to these dangerous activities. This was a key factor behind child labor laws, and it should also apply to the culture of training children ridiculously early so they can become a professional and bring their parents fame and money.

If individuals still want to participate in these activities, they should wait until they're 18 — the sport will still be there.