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10/23: Youth Football Takes Hard Hit… One-Third of Americans Less Likely to Allow Son to Play Football because of Head Injury Risk

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10/23: Youth Football Takes Hard Hit… One-Third of Americans Less Likely to Allow Son to Play Football because of Head Injury Risk

Most Americans are aware of the connection between concussions suffered while playing football and long-term brain injury, and that information would influence some Americans’ decision to allow their son to play the sport if they had to make the choice.  About one in three Americans say this knowledge would make them less likely to allow a son to participate in the game.  In fact, nearly one in five Americans say this risk would be the key factor in deciding whether or not they would allow their son to step onto the gridiron.  About one-third of Americans has become more concerned because of the link between concussions suffered while playing football and long-term brain injury.

This HBO Real Sports/Marist Poll has been conducted in conjunction with the Marist College Center for Sports Communication.

Click Here for Complete October 23, 2013 USA HBO Real Sports/Marist Poll Release and Tables

“Historically, youth football has fueled the NFL,” says Dr. Keith Strudler, Director of The Marist College Center for Sports Communication.  “Parents’ concern about the safety of the game could jeopardize the future of the sport.”

Most U.S. adults — 86% — have heard at least a little about the connection between concussions inflicted while on the football field and long-term brain injury.  This includes 55% who have heard either a great deal or good amount and 31% who have heard a little about this link.  14% have heard nothing at all about it.

Awareness varies based upon a family’s income.  While about two-thirds of Americans who earn $50,000 or more annually — 66% — have heard a great deal or a good amount about the issue, 47% of those who earn less say the same.  There are also differences based on education.  While 63% of college graduates have heard a great deal or a good amount about the link between these head injuries and long-term brain trauma, 50% of those without a college degree are comparably aware.

33% of Americans say the link between head injuries in football and long-term brain trauma would make them less likely to allow their son to play football if they had to make that choice.  Only 7% report it would make them more likely to do so, and 60% say it would make no difference to their decision.  Just how many Americans would ultimately allow their son to play the game?  85% would while a notable 13% would not.  Two percent are unsure.

For almost one in five Americans — 16%, the risk of long-term brain injury due to youth football participation would be the deciding factor in whether or not to allow their son to play football.  And, a majority of U.S. adults — 56% — say it would be one of the factors that influences their decision.  28% report this information would play no role at all in making that choice.

Nearly four in ten U.S. residents — 39% — report the recent information about long-term brain injury as a result of concussions incurred while playing football hasn’t changed their level of concern about the game.  However, 32% say it has made them more  concerned because of the serious risk of long-term brain injury while 30% report it has made them less concerned because coaches, parents, and players are more informed and can take greater precautions.

Table: Awareness of Connection between Concussion while Playing Football and Long-term Brain Injury (U.S. Adults)

Table: Allow Son to Play Football (U.S. Adults)

Table: More or Less Likely to Allow Son to Play Football Knowing the Connection between Concussion while Playing Football and Long-term Brain Injury (U.S. Adults)

Table: Whether Connection between Concussion while Playing Football and Long-term Brain Injury is Key Factor in Deciding Youth Football Participation (U.S. Adults)

Table: Level of Concern about Connection between Concussion while Playing Football and Long-term Brain Injury (U.S. Adults)

Weighing the Pros and Cons

Seven in ten Americans — 70% — think the benefits of playing football outweigh the risk of injury.  However, about one in four — 24% — believe the risk of injury is too high.  Seven percent are unsure.

A similar proportion of adults nationally — 74% — think playing football is a good way to build character and boys should be encouraged to play the game.  However, one in five — 20% — say the risk of injury is too high to allow boys to play football.  Six percent are unsure.

“What will be interesting to watch is if other sports begin to recruit those kids whose parents keep them from football,” says Dr. Keith Strudler, Director of The Marist College Center for Sports Communication.  “Football’s loss could be the inevitable gain of lacrosse, baseball, or even soccer.”

Table: Do the Benefits of Football Outweigh Risk of Injury? (U.S. Adults)

Table: Is Football a Good Way to Build Character or is the Risk of Injury Too High (U.S. Adults)

More Than One in Ten Fans Less Likely to Enjoy Game 

The recent information about the link between concussions suffered while playing football and long-term brain injury makes watching the sport less enjoyable for a notable 14% of football fans.  Only 2% report it makes the game more enjoyable to watch, and 84% say it makes no difference to their viewing pleasure.

In their own communities, how big of a deal is football?  Nearly seven in ten Americans — 69% — report a lot of people follow and talk about the sport.  One in four — 25% — say some people are engaged in the game.  Only 7% do not follow or talk about football.

Table: Has Enjoyment of Football Changed because of Link to Injury? (Fans Nationally)

Table: Community Interest in Football (U.S. Adults)

How the Survey was Conducted

Nature of the Sample

About Keith Strudler, Ph.D.

Keith Strudler, Ph.D., is the director for the Marist College Center for Sports Communication.  Dr. Strudler founded Marist’s popular concentration in sports communication in 2002, now one of the nation’s largest in the discipline.  He studies and teaches in the areas of sports media, sports and society, and sports reporting and information.  Dr. Strudler also writes weekly sports commentary for WAMC, an NPR radio station in Albany, NY.

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