What is football without tackling, soccer without heading the ball, and lacrosse and hockey without full body checking? Much safer for kids under 14, says Dr. Robert Cantu.
Cantu is a concussion expert and brain surgeon at Emerson Hospital in Massachusetts. A concussion is a serious brain injury caused by a blow to the head or body. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that as many as 3.8 million concussions nationwide happen each year in sports and recreational activities.
In a new book, "Concussions and Our Kids," Cantu proposes that tackle football, heading in soccer and full body checking in ice hockey not start until kids are 14.
Kids' brains, Cantu explains, are more at risk for injury than adult brains. Children's brains do not have as much of a protein called myelin, which helps protect the brain. Kids have larger heads and weaker necks and torsos, "so if they fall they are much more likely to have their heads snap backward and hit the ground," Cantu adds.
"Youngsters tend to have the worst equipment, least experienced coaches and no medical personnel at the scene." Cantu suggests the age 14 for starting full contact in sports because "you have to start somewhere, but starting later is fine, too."
TIMEFORKIDS.COMYoung love too much of a good thing?
Your 16-year-old son spends all his time with his girlfriend. Should you nudge him to keep up with his male buddies?
There is a good chance your son will alienate his buddies by ditching them for his girlfriend, says Anthony Rao, child psychologist and author of "The Way of Boys: Raising Healthy Boys in a Challenging and Complex World" (William Morrow).
But he doesn't need to hear that from you.
"This is not time for a lecture," says Rao. "This is the time to respect the new, very intense, very powerful feelings your son is having and learn to approach him as a young adult."
You can certainly set up clear boundaries for your son. So curfews, where and when he and his girlfriend can be alone in your home, and what behaviors you approve and disapprove of should all be on the table.
That discussion can include a conversation about balance.
"It's an amazing opportunity to talk about pacing and balancing your personal life and your love life with all your other demands," Rao says. "You can talk to him about being careful not to burn out, like when you overtrain for a sport.
"You can give information, but you have to be careful not to lecture," he says.
So the overarching tone should be one of respect and, ultimately, approval, says Rao.
And if the balance portion of the conversation falls on deaf ears, step aside and let his buddies razz him about the time he's no longer devoting to them.
"You've got to recognize and respect that there's an intensity of really great emotions here," says Rao. "You can't stop him from having these emotions or feelings and if you get into too much conflict with your son over it, you're going to send him the message that you don't respect what he's feeling. That will just shut down the dialogue."