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Football: Have Fun, But Play Safe

Parents of children and teens who play football may worry about their athletes getting hurt. While injuries do occur in football, the rate of severe injuries in football is lower than for some other popular activities. Younger players have the lowest injury rates of all football players. As players get older, strong and faster, injury rates go up. Playing by the rules and getting proper training helps players reduce their chance of injuries while still enjoying the game.

Weigh the Risks & Benefits

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends players and their families talk about whether the risk of injury outweighs the benefits of playing football. Football has many positive benefits including regular exercise, learning to be part of a team, and social growth and development. Families who decide to play can take steps to reduce the chances of serious injury.

Play by the Rules

  • Coaches and officials need to enforce the rules and have a zero-tolerance for head-first hits and other types of illegal tackles. These tackles can lead to severe injuries of the head and neck and are the leading cause of severe injuries in football.

Alternatives to Tackling

  • Organized sports groups should consider creating more non-tackling leagues. This gives athletes a chance to still play football, but without the added risk of tackling injuries.

Get Good Training

  • Players should learn the right way to apply and absorb a tackle. Doing this, and practicing the skills often, helps make sure athletes are properly trained and ready when tackling does begin.
  • It's not clear whether delaying tackling until a certain age will protect players. On one hand, it could lower injury rates for younger players. But older players could be at a greater risk of injury if they first learn to tackle when they are bigger and stronger, without having learned the correct technique.

Have Athletic Trainers Present

  • The AAP recommends having athletic trainers in attendance during both games and practices. Research has shown having them present helps lower injury rates.

Additional Information

Last Updated
American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2015)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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