The country got a look at the super competitive world of the Texas Youth Football Association Tuesday night with the premier of the reality show 'Friday Night Tykes' on the Esquire Network, but experts in sports medicine tell 1200 WOAI news the show does not present a good or healthy picture of the sorts of training and contact that is suitable for 4 to 13 year old children, 1200 WOAI's Stephanie Narvaez reports.
Tackling in the TYFL starts at age sic. Dr. Christian Balldin, a sports medicine expert with the San Antonio Orthopaedic Group, says some of the adult coaching and supervision depicted in the show is worrisome.
"You don't want to lead with your head," he says of some of the tyke tackling depicted in the show. "That can result in not only helmet to helmet injury, but also scary type injuries where you can injure the spinal cord," Dr. Balldin said.
The program depicts hard hitting, extreme workouts, and serious competition among the youngest football players.
In fact, it is the depiction of serious helmet to helmet contact which is the most controversial part of the show. Dr. Balldin points out that even the NFL takes precautions to make sure that helmet to helmet contact is minimized.
"The most important thing that parents and coaches need to know is the dangers of concussions," Dr. Balldin said. "Helmet to helmet contact or helmet to ground contact can cause concussions at any age, and at any level."
The Esquire Network said in a press release that the TYFA is 'one of the most competitive youth football leagues in the country," and adds "For many of the parents, coaches, and players documented in Friday Night Tykes, football is a lifestyle, the centerpiece of their community and, in come cases, even a substitute family."
The producers say the show draws the difference between normal elementary and middle school sports, with its 'participation medals,' and real football, where 'winning means everything.
"Friday Night Tykes also raises important questions about how we are parenting our children," producer Matt Hanna said.
Balldin says while it is important for kids to be active, it is also important that their coaches and parents supervise that activity safely.
"Do we want our kids to stay active, especially with the current childhood obesity problem, of course," Balldin said. "But the most important thing is that kids do it in a safe manner, and that starts with the parents teaching them the best and safest way, and that starts with tackling.