The information released in recent years about the connection between playing football and long-term brain injury is influencing Americans’ opinions about whether or not they would allow their child to play youth football. In fact, while nearly eight in ten Americans say they would allow their child to play football if he wanted to do so, an increasing proportion of Americans say they would not.
While nearly half of residents, 49%, regardless of whether or not they have a son, say the reports linking football to long-term brain injury has no effect on their decision to allow their son to play football, the proportion with this view has decreased from 60% in 2013. In contrast, the proportion of U.S. residents who report the information has made them less likely to allow their son to play the game, 40%, has increased from 33% over the same period of time. There has also been a slight increase among those who say they would be more likely to allow their son to play football, 11% now up from 7% three years ago.
This pattern holds true among Americans who have a son under the age of 18 years of age. 44% of parents, up from 36% previously, say they are less likely to allow their son to play football. This compares with 11%, up from 5%, who say the information makes them more likely to do so. 45% of parents with a son, compared with 58% in 2013, say the reports about the concussion link to long-term brain trauma in football players makes no difference in their decision.
Racial differences currently exist. White, 43%, and Latino, 43%, residents are more likely than African Americans, 28%, to say the information makes them less likely to allow their son to play football. Instead, a larger proportion of African Americans, 59%, compared with white, 48%, and Latino, 47%, residents say the reports circulating makes no difference in their decision.
This HBO Real Sports/Marist Poll has been conducted in conjunction with the Marist College Center for Sports Communication.
“If football cannot convince American families that the sport is safe, participation at all levels stands to decrease,” says Keith Strudler, Director of the Marist College Center for Sports Communication. “And, given the disparate views along racial and socio-economic lines, football teams could become far less diverse.”
When it comes to the bottom line decision, 79% of Americans, down slightly from 85%, say they would allow their son to play the game, if he wanted to. However, nearly one in five residents, 19%, up from 13%, say they would not. Two percent are unsure.
The change is more pronounced among parents with a son under 18 years old. 75%, down from 87%, say they would allow their child to play football. But, 23% say they would not. This is more than twice the proportion of parents with this view in 2013, 10%.
Also of note, while there has been little change on this question among those who live in the Midwest and South, there has been an increase among those in the Northeast and the West who say they would not allow their son to play football. 27% of those in the Northeast, up from 18%, and 21% of those in the West, up from 12%, have this view.
Women, 21%, are also more likely than men, 16% to report they would not permit their son to play the sport. In 2013, 14% of women and 11% of men felt this way. Latino, 23%, and white, 18%, residents are also more likely than African American residents, 13%, to say they would not allow their son to play the game.
More than eight in ten Americans, 85%, and regardless of demography, believe doctors should be required to inform parents and children about the risk of long-term brain injury that could occur from playing football. 12% say doctors should not be required to do so, and 3% are unsure.
75% of Americans describe themselves as football fans. This includes 23% who follow football a great deal, 18% who watch a good amount of it, and 34% who watch a little of the game. 24% do not watch football at all.