past event

Playing Safety: The Future of Youth Football?

At the Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C., a roundtable of three dozen thought leaders considered the question: How can football best serve the interests of children, communities and public health? America faces an epidemic of physical inactivity, with a need to get and keep children active in sports. Yet, concerns have grown about the health and safety risks of playing the collision sport of football. Carried live by C-SPAN, our panel of 33 doctors, researchers, athletes, administrators, journalists and football industry representatives considered the state of youth and high school football, potential reforms, and the role of professional football.

Sports & Society director and ESPN reporter Tom Farrey moderated featured conversations with Dr. Robert Cantu, co-director of Boston University’s Center for the Study of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, and DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association. Other roundtable participants included Scott Hallenbeck, executive director, USA Football; Chris Nowinski, executive director, Sports Legacy Institute; Mike Wise, Washington Post columnist; Jon Butler, executive director, Pop Warner Little Scholars, Jeff Miller, senior vice president, NFL; Eddie Mason, former NFL linebacker, and Stefan Fatsis, commentator, NPR and Slate.

The roundtable discussion served to broaden a conversation that started at the Aspen Ideas Festival in June, where a panel featuring concussion experts and former NFL players Jim Brown and Kevin Turner considered the health and safety concerns facing football.


Aspen Idea blog, “The Most Important Conversations in Sports,” by Tom Farrey
Law review article distributed to roundtable participants, “Confronting the Youth Sports Concussion Crisis,” by Doug Abrams



Slate: “Why Do We Let Kids Play Tackle Football?” by Stefan Fatsis
Washington Post: “NFL Needs to Get Seriousness of Concussions Through Its Head,”  by Mike Wise


11:00 am: Welcome
11:15 am: At What Age Should Children Play Tackle Football?
Moderated conversation with Dr. Robert Cantu
12:00 pm: Can High School Football Be Made Healthier, Safer?
12:30 pm: What’s the Role of the NFL and its Players in Driving Reform?
Moderated conversation with DeMaurice Smith
1:45 pm: Closing Comments


  • Aspen Idea blog by Dr. Robb Rehberg: “Youth Football Needs Medical Standard of Care
  • MomsTeam blog by Brooke de Lench on alternatives to banning tackle football below age 14
  • Clip about the death of Owen Thomas from “Head Games,” new documentary by Steve James
  • Press release for “The Aspen Institute Presents,” a television series on WORLD Channel highlighting the best conversations from the 2012 Aspen Ideas Festival. A one-hour episode on the sports track panels airs on Nov. 20 at 8 pm, and includes dialogue from the football concussions panel, “Head Games: Can Football Be Saved from Itself?”
Event information
Fri Nov 9, 2012
11:00am - 1:45pm GMT+0000
Washington, DC, United States