Karl Mecklenburg, a three-time All-Pro linebacker with the Broncos, is one of the thousands of former players suing the NFL over brain injuries they say they suffered on the field. But that doesn’t mean he thinks kids shouldn’t play football.
Mecklenburg told the Denver Post that he still believes football is great for children, and he thinks if it is safe and properly supervised it should continue to be a sport that young people play.
“Football is a wonderful teaching lesson about so many things in life,” Mecklenburg said. “About perseverance, about courage, about dedication, about teamwork, about leadership, about so many things you can’t learn in a classroom. So, yeah, it’s a wonderful way for a child to learn those things, as long as again the adults aren’t getting carried away, the owners aren’t getting carried away, and putting people in bad positions.”
So why is Mecklenburg suing the NFL? He believes that the league should have given players a greater understanding of the risks of brain injuries.
“I didn’t buy in to professional football with the understanding that I was going to have brain damage,” Mecklenburg said. “I expected to have a limp. I expected to have sore joints. Bad shoulder, whatever. But that other part, that was kept from us and that wasn’t right.”
Of course, children who play youth football don’t have a full understanding of the potential injury risks, either. That’s why it’s extremely important for the adults who run youth football programs to take precautions against head injuries. But as we talk about the risks of football for young people, we should also talk about the rewards of playing football. Which are significant.