Would you let your child play Pop Warner?

Would you let your child play Pop Warner?
November 15, 2013, 10:15 pm
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Pop Warner football players look on before an NFL pre-season football game between the San Francisco 49ers and the San Diego Chargers.

(AP Photo)

The game of football has a serious problem and it's been in the news for a while now. 

Players are experiencing long-term problems due to concussions. 

Memory loss. Dizziness. Headaches. CTE. Even suicide.

Now, the problem seems to be taking its toll at the very earliest entry point - Pop Warner. 

Between 2010 and 2012, Pop Warner saw a 9.5% decrease (nearly 24,000 players) in the number of players. That marks the largest decrease in the history of the league. The Chief Medical Examiner says a majority of that decrease is because parents are worried about their kids getting concussions.

The Sports Tonight crew debates whether or not they would let their own children play Pop Warner football.

"I don't want my kid to play football," says Gary Tanguay. "If he really really wanted to, and if he felt like "this is it, I've got to do it," I would let him do it, but I'm not in favor of it."

Rob "Hardy" Poole disagrees, and he says the decision to keep kids out of Pop Warner is another result of Helicopter Parenting, where parents hover over their kids and try to shield them from anything that might cause pain or discomfort. 

"I would let my son play football," says Poole. 

What about Kirk Minihane?

"My son is 18 months old," says Minihane. "I can tell he's a stallion. We might as well ship him to Canton right now. Unfortunately, for me, I'm one of these dads. The kid is not going to play football. I just read League of Denial. It's not going to happen. He can play basketball. He can play baseball. He can do other stuff. I don't want this kid getting concussions. And it's not Pop Warner, it's not going to happen in Pop Warner, but Pop Warner's a trigger.    

"If my kid plays Pop Warner, and he's good, he's going to want to play in high school. And then it starts to get serious. I'm putting my foot down. Dad is saying 'no.'"

Tanguay recalls a story where a child in his neighborhood missed several weeks of school because of a concussion - an injury suffered because many youth football coaches don't know what they're doing. 

The injuries and the subsequent drop in Pop Warner means fundamental changes are likely on the way, at least in youth football. Pop Warner is unlikely to sit by and let their numbers continue to plummet. But will the drop in youth football enrollment result in a long-term decrease in the NFL talent pool? Unlikely.

"The NFL is a monster," says Minihane. "It's a runaway train." 

Would you let your child play Pop Warner football?