Bioethics is closing in on American football. An expert on concussion writing in the New York Times says that children should be allowed to play until they have reached the age of consent.
It is our moral duty as a society to protect the most vulnerable of us. The human brain becomes fully developed at about 18 to 25 years old. We should at least wait for our children to grow up, be provided with the information and education on the risk of play, and let them make their own decisions. No adult, not a parent or a coach, should be allowed to make this potentially life-altering decision for a child.
Dr Bennet Omalu, who first diagnosed Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) in 2002 (and is the subject of the recent film Concussion), says that young players are at risk of “major depression, memory loss, suicidal thought and actions, loss of intelligence as well as dementia later in life [and] drug and alcohol abuse as the child enters his 20s, 30s and 40s”.
In January the American Journal of Bioethics is to publish an even starker picture of the risks of football. Steven H. Miles and Shailendra Prasad argue in a pre-publlication blog post that public school tackle football programs should be banned because of the high prevalence of concussions.
The authors discuss two additional complications in addition to the possible harm that football can cause: consent and dual loyalty.
High school players are not capable of giving informed consent, they say. Existing consent forms do not quantity risk or minimize it.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.