Ethical aspects of organized contact sports for children as participants

Arturo Leyva


This paper seeks to review the literature and address ethical implications of organized contact sports, such as American football and boxing, with significant child or adolescent participation. Child and adolescent sport participation act not only as a leisure activity, but also improves physical health and enhances psychological and social health outcomes. However, playing sports may also have negative physiological effects, such as sports-related concussions (SRCs) - a form of traumatic brain injury (TBI) - which are an emerging public health concern. This paper review and explores ethical implications of contact sports in the scientific literature and demonstrates challenged faced on philosophical deliberation on the ethical implications of SRCs and RHIs due to complexities of these conditions and their identification and treatment involving a wide variety of practical situations, which formal sports rules may not adequately address. Since scholarly literature has yet to arrive at a consensus concerning causal link(s) between contact sports participation and significant concussion-related brain damage, the paper argues in favor of strengthening concussion preventive measures, identification protocols and management procedures in contact sports. This article rejects ethical paternalism on the basis of inconclusive empirical evidence concerning associations between contact sports participation and heightened SRC risk. It also rejects Mill’s argumentation against consensualism and suggests prevention is a better solution over inadequately founded philosophical ethical proposals favoring drastically reforming contact sports.


Children, Ethics, Football, Paternalism, Sports-related concussions, Traumatic brain injury

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