If you think that Larry Csonka isn’t tough, you’re mistaken.
And the former NFL star, a bulldozer at running back who helped lead the Miami Dolphins to a perfect season in 1972, has a message that perhaps only tough guys can effectively get across to some people.
A child running around on a Pop Warner field with a sloppy helmet isn’t cute to me ... it’s an outrage!
Larry Csonka, former NFL star
“Kids shouldn’t play tackle football until junior high for a few reasons,” Csonka wrote in a blog on his website. “In many cases, they are not well coached and, more importantly, not properly equipped. A child running around on a Pop Warner field with a sloppy helmet isn’t cute to me ... it’s an outrage!”
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Orlando Sentinel columnist George Diaz, in a column posted Thursday, cited Csonka along with a couple of other tough guys – former pro wrestler Christopher Nowinski and teammate Nick Buoniconti – in making a case against tackle football for youngsters. Tough guys help get a point across in a column he knows will draw the “obligatory eye roll” from people worried about the “wussification” of today’s youth.
(Flag football is) much safer, still exposes kids to the game, and chances are great that they won’t walk away from the game in a fuzzy haze.
George Diaz, Orlando Sentinel
Diaz cites some grim statistics. For instance, 96 percent of deceased NFL players and 79 percent of all football players studied in autopsies exhibited CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) a progressive and degenerative brain disease.
Nowinski, author of “Head Games: Football’s Concussion Crisis” and considered an authoritative source on sports and head traumas, says that the more scientists learn about CTE, “the more clear it is that youth tackle football was never meant to be.”
Diaz writes that evidence indicates that a “horror ... awaits if someone plays a lifetime of contact sports.” However, “not nearly enough parents are listening. Most, in fact, are tuning out.”
Diaz cites a study reporting the number of children ages 6-12 playing tackle football is rising.
The columnist offers a compromise, a safer alternative to tackle football for those children: Flag football.
“It’s much safer, still exposes kids to the game, and chances are great that they won’t walk away from the game in a fuzzy haze.”
Follow Mike Reader on Twitter.