Have a young football player? Know the risks.

Football is a great sport, but it can be risky. Since 1997, approximately 50 teen-age players in high school and youth leagues have died or sustained serious head injuries on the field. For every 10,000 games or practices, 11 high school aged or younger players suffer concussions. The rate for college players is about 6.3 for every 10,000.

Why is there a difference? Traditionally, college sports are more closely supervised from a medical standpoint. Especially in recent years as professional players have brought the issue forward in lawsuits.

So what is a parent of a young player to do? The first step is to decide whether you want your child to play football. Some parents have voted “no.” Although thousands of children play the game without long-term harm, many parents don’t believe the risk of serious injury is worth the joy of the game.

If you do choose to let your son (or, occasionally these days, daughter) play, here are some tips to follow:

  • Be aware of the quality of medical supervision on the team. School districts across Georgia have increased their vigilance about injuries, but some schools commit more resources to safety than others. Learn if your team is taking all precautions and employing qualified personnel.
  • Stay current on developments in equipment. Recently, a brand of popular lacrosse helmets was found to be below standards. You can’t keep up pressure on those governing your child’s sport if you don’t arm yourself with data about safety and equipment.

The topic of concussions is all over the news these days, so there is no excuse for sport’s supervisors not to be aware of their responsibilities. If school or youth league personnel show reckless disregard for safety, then legal action could be justified. Let’s hope it never comes to that. Football is more popular than ever, but it won’t remain so if it becomes intolerably dangerous.