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Football not for the faint-of-heart parent

After my son was born, I quickly came to the decision that I never wanted him to play football.

And for those who know me, I love football. I've been watching football games since I was 5, was manager of my high school football team, did radio sports reporting for WXPN in college for Penn football games and of course, have devotedly followed the San Francisco 49ers.

My son is now 6 and I know several people who have their kids enrolled in tackle football. But as I read this New York Times piece published yesterday, it reminded me why I will never allow my son to play football.

The New York Times reported on a football player at my alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, who committed suicide in May. According to the article, this 21-year-old lineman, who had no history of depression, hung himself in his off-campus apartment.

The results of the autopsy, which his parents made public, showed that he had developed chronic traumatic encephalopathy. This is the same brain disease that a handful of NFL players have been diagnosed with following their deaths. It is the result of concussions and repeated head trauma and it is linked to depression and impulse control issues. (NFL running back Chris Henry died at the age of 26 when he jumped out of a moving pickup truck.) With this Penn football player, this is the youngest person doctors have ever seen with the disease, and the concern is that it may be possible for high school players to develop the disease as the sport has become even more hard-hitting at the high school level.

Now, I understand that injuries are a part of sports. And that you can be severely injuried or die from injuries in a lot of a different sports, not just football. But as a parent, I could never allow my children to play a sport where the possibility of a life-threatening injury is significantly higher than others. (That's why skydiving is out of the question too.) The American Association of Neurological Surgeons said that 300,000 football-related concussions occured in the U.S. last year with nearly 45,000 of these head injuries serious enough to be treated at hospital emergency rooms.

My son plays baseball and has asked about playing basketball. I have no problem letting him play those sports. And for those parents who let their kids play football, I have no problem with that either, because that is their choice. But if my son ever asks about football, as his mom, I'm going to say no. I love him too much.