Nightly News   |  January 31, 2014

Is Football Safe Enough for Kids? 40 Percent Say No

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll has discovered a startling statistic on public attitudes toward the number one sport in America.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> as millions of viewers around this globe get ready to watch the super bowl on sunday this comes at what may be the start of a troubling time for organized football . this week, joe namath became the most visible player to disclose he suffered long-term concussions during his career. now, the wall street journal poll discovered a startling trend towards football . when asked if they would discourage a child from playing football , 40% of americans said yes. because this came out of our polling on mostly political attitudes we get our report tonight from our political editor and fellow football fan, chuck todd .

>> reporter: on sunday, more than 100 million americans will watch the super bowl . but while we love watching the game we begin to question if it is safe for our kids to play it.

>> to be honest, they are probably going to stop. i know they really love it.

>> reporter: green bay packer brett favre is questioning whether the game is even safe enough for kids.

>> if i had a son, i would be real leery of him playing.

>> reporter: and the president of the united states told the new yorker magazine i would not let my son play pro football . and our new poll shows a dramatic clash on the issue, while some would discourage their kids from playing football the number is closer to 50% among wealthy americans and 60% among the most highly educated americans . others are concerned this could hurt youth football .

>> i think more than ever before, we're seeing football coming down to what the moms in the mini vans think. because if the perception is that it is not safe for their son to play, they talk.

>> reporter: youth enrollment in pop warner football has dropped by nearly 10% in the last three years. officials claim it has nothing to do with concussion concerns.

>> football is relatively safe compared to other youth activities. they say kids get more concussions in a variety of other ways other than playing football .

>> reporter: but like big tobacco in the '60s, many football organizations are criticized for being slow to be aware of the danger. and high school football is at risk, where they may sanction the football altogether for fear of the liability.

>> reporter: but dads are nervous.

>> yes, we'll keep playing the game, but we need to get a little more educated on concussions, how the concussions are caused and how they can be prevented.

>> reporter: our shared love of football is becoming a national conversation about whether the risks are worth it. chuck todd , nbc news, washington.