Baltimore Ravens Receiver Weighs In on Youth-Football Safety
Super Bowl-winning wide receiver Anquan Boldin of the Baltimore Ravens recently joined the masses by providing his own take in an interview with ESPN the Magazine's Eddie Matz, making a point that's well worth noting in this ongoing debate.
Matz asked Boldin, who has an eight-year-old son, if he lets his child play tackle football.
"Not at that age," Boldin responded. "In the leagues I've seen, I don't feel kids are being taught how to properly tackle."
There's been plenty of discussion about why tackle football for youths is more dangerous than for adults, most of which revolves around the physiological development of children. At last month's Youth Sports Safety Summit, concussion expert Chris Nowinski explained that children are effectively bobble-head dolls with a weak head-to-body ratio and weak necks that don't distribute force to the body well.
Those physiological differences are what caused Dr. Robert Cantu to suggest restricting tackle football and other contact sports to children ages 14 and up in his 2012 book, "Concussions and Our Kids."
There's no way to speed up the course of natural development, but Boldin hinted at what can be changed with youth football: coaches' training. Last summer, USA Football, the youth-development partner of the National Football League, sought to address this with its new Heads Up Football initiative, which aims to instruct youth players on proper tackling techniques.
The Pittsburgh Steelers also launched an initiative last fall that instructs youth-football players not to "hit the head" or "use the head" when making a tackle.
These types of strategic changes may be able to help accomplish the oft-referenced goal of changing the culture of football. However, in his interview with ESPN, Boldin himself unwittingly revealed the difficulties that lie ahead in terms of that culture change.
"It's tough for defenders now with how fast the game is being played," he said. "There are certain situations where a receiver lowers his head because he's about to get hit, and you end up getting flagged because he ducked. Even me as a blocker, I'm not worried about where I'm hitting the guy. I just have to make the block, and I'll deal with the consequences later."
I'll deal with the consequences later? There's been undeniable progress in terms of player-safety recognition, but if this quote is any indication, the culture of football still has a long ways to go.
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