Football can still thrive if the youngest kids stopped playing tackle. Tom Brady, for example, did not play Pop Warner, the largest youth football program in the U.S. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh — who loves football more than anyone — has said that kids should play soccer until eighth grade, to learn footwork and agility, before strapping on shoulder pads in high school.
The stakes in this debate are high. “We all want our kids to grow up to be the most productive, most successful of society they can possibly be,” says McKee. “And this is something that may limit their ultimate potential to be highly successful and highly productive in later life.”