Concussion experts have advocated for years that kids shouldn’t play tackle football until high school, when their bodies are more developed and they can better absorb the hits the game hands out.
That advice has gotten a lot of pushback from folks who think kids have to learn how to hit when they’re young to play well, though. They made their voices heard again this week after the release of the Frontline film League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis, which pillories the NFL’s response to concussion research over the years and includes Boston University concussion expert Dr. Robert Cantu saying kids should hold off on tackle football until they’re older. (Cantu has long held that view, but he was the voice behind the position in the film.)
Those who think it’s crazy to keep kids from playing tackle aren’t just discounting doctors when it comes to the decision, though — there are quite a few NFL stars in that corner.
While Tom Brady and the Manning brothers are perhaps the most famous of the players whose parents chose to keep them from organized football until they were older, other NFL stars are now making the same decision with their children, including Saints quarterback and Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees.
“At a certain age, I think it’s appropriate,” Brees said Wednesday, according to USA Today. “I think you can be too young to go out there and strap on a helmet. As a parent, you have to know what those risks are and the protocols that have to take place when things happen.”
Brees detailed the steps players need to go through to make sure they’re OK, calling concussion issues “very serious stuff.” He also, despite not having seen the film, agreed that the NFL is on shaky ground for how it has handled concussions in the past.
“They’re in bad shape, and they deserve to be cared for and helped,” Brees said of past players. “Hopefully we can learn a lot from that and that situation and make it better for those who come after.”
Brees has three sons, and Brees says they will be free to play if they want once they are teenagers.