The survey of nearly 4,000 adults found that only about 45% of Americans agreed that tackle football is appropriate for kids, while 50% disagreed. The respondents were asked to rate on a scale of 1 (strongly disagree) to 4 (strongly agree) the statement: “Tackle football is an appropriate sport for kids to play.” The remaining 5% said they didn’t know.
Researchers said they did not define “kid” for participants intentionally.
“We purposefully left that open,” said study co-author Chris Knoester, professor of sociology at Ohio State.
“People might have different perceptions of what counts as a kid,” Knoester added. “And some of the previous research that tracks participation actually finds that we’ve seen a particularly marked decrease in kids ages 6 to 12 playing tackle football, and also previous public opinion results have been more in agreement that football is risky for kids under the age of 13.”
A news release on the study by the university noted a 20% decline in tackle football participation among children ages 6 to 12 from 2008 to 2018.
Mariah Warner, the lead author of the study and a doctoral student in sociology at Ohio State, said when broken down further, results showed the question also divided Americans by race and class.
Black Americans, men, heterosexuals, conservative, and those with only a high school education were not as negative about tackle football for kids as were white Americans, the college-educated, and those who live in suburbs.
“There is a noticeable difference,” Warner stated. “Wealthier folks of higher socioeconomic status, are less likely to think that tackle football is appropriate for kids. Whereas lower-class folks are more likely to think that it’s OK. Part of the theorizing behind that – football is a fairly inexpensive sport, especially in comparison to what we might call like ‘country club sports,’ like tennis or swimming, so it’s more accessible.”