Football participation for kids source of conflict in family court

Divorcing parents fight over a range of issues, from big questions like who the children will live with and how to handle major educational and medical decisions to some relatively minor issues.

Now another source of contentiousness has emerged: whether the kids should play football.

As more and more evidence links football to long-term brain damage, a lot of parents are having second thoughts about whether their children should play the sport. This has resulted in disagreements that led to some parents going to court over whether their custody orders should bar their kids from taking the field.

One such dispute is happening in Pittsburgh. John Orsini is seeking to stop his youngest son from playing high-school football because the boy has had concussions in the past and Orsini is worried about him having more in the future. The boy’s mom, however, says their son understands the risks, wants to keep playing and should be able to decide for himself.

Orsini hasn’t been able to get the judge to block his son from playing and the issue is headed for trial. For now, the boy is still playing and apparently hopes to play in college, like his older brother.

It’s hard to say how judges will ultimately resolve these types of disputes. There’s plenty of research that football poses serious health risks in the long run, but coaches and trainers are now better equipped to detect and address signs of concussions. Plus, judges in many states are elected and may be concerned about re-election if they start routinely issuing orders blocking kids from hitting the gridiron. These are also very fact-specific cases that can depend heavily on the individuals involved.

But if you’re concerned about your own child playing football and your ex-spouse disagrees, talk to a family law attorney to determine how best to approach the issue.