The debate about whether to let children play football due to the risk of repeated concussions which could have detrimental, lifelong consequences, has become a growing debate in divorce proceedings in family court.
“You always heard it sometimes, when one parent would say ‘I don’t want him doing that because he might get hurt,’” said Allen E. Mayefsky, a leading divorce lawyer and former president of the New York chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. “Usually we thought the parent was just overprotective. Now, it’s more of a real medical issue.”
That’s because scientific evidence has emerged in the past decade that shows just how dangerous repeated head injury sustained during games and practices of contact sports like football can be. Researchers have identified a build up of a protein called tau in the brains of former professional NFL players, leading to a dementia-like degenerative brain disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Now researchers have identified the same degeneration in the brains of college and high school athletes who have suffered repeated head trauma.
It’s difficult to say just how many couples argue in family courts over whether a child should play sports due to injury concerns. But the issue has become front-and-center for John Orsini and his ex-wife, who divorced in 2004. John has gone to court to prevent his youngest son from playing high school football. He says studies have shown just how dangerous the sport can be, especially for someone like his son, who has experienced previous concussions.
John’s ex-wife, and the mother of his son, says their boy should be allowed to continue playing the game because he understands the risks involved.
John, 66, grew up supporting football and even enrolled his sons in youth tackle football leagues when they were as young as 5 – including his youngest son. But his view changed when his youngest son, 17, suffered three sports-related concussions in 2013, 2015 and 2016. He did research and found out that boys who began playing tackle football before the age of 12 were more likely to have behavioral and cognitive problems later in life. He tried discussing the issue with his ex-wife but she refused to engage him.
Despite entering a court-mandated mediation program, neither side appears to be budging. If no progress is made, the case is expected to go to trial. John says he fears this will drag out the case through November, when his son turns 18, at which point John would be powerless to prevent him from finishing his senior season or from playing college ball. “If I can’t stop him now, he’s on track to have a lot more damage done,” he told the New York Times.
Source: NY Times