It is not as absurd a question as it would have been, say, 10 years ago: Would you want your kid playing football? You can point to the safety advances, and the increased awareness, and the character-building spiel—and then you can point to a Pop Warner football game in Massachusetts last month, in which five players on a single team were concussed even as they were pummeled on the scoreboard.
One wonders how much character was built among the Tantasqua Pee Wees, as they were run over by the bigger, faster Southbridge team on Sept. 15. En route to a 52-0 blowout, five Tantasqua players—all between 10 and 12 years old—suffered concussions, were checked out on the sidelines, then sent right back in the game to get hit again.
Perhaps the worst thing about this is that there are rules in place to stop massacres like this from happening. A mercy rule that should have been invoked at 28-0 was ignored. Referees were supposed to stop the game if it became unsafe. Players were supposed to weigh-in before the game, to make sure they were below a certain size—a procedure Tantasqua coaches claim Southbridge skipped.
So there's been discipline, for just about everybody involved. The three officials have been banned for life from the Central Massachusetts Pop Warner league. The coach of Southbridge was suspended for the rest of the season, as was Tantasqua's coach. Both teams' association presidents have been placed on probation. The message, from president of Central Mass. Pop Warner Patrick Inderwish, is that it's not only the responsibility of the dominating team to make sure no one gets hurt.
"There's an obligation to walk across the field and say, ‘This thing is out of hand,' and nobody did that,'' Inderwish said.
So maybe don't stop your son from playing football. Just make sure he's on the team that wins games 52-0.