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Poll: Nearly half of parents would discourage football due to concussions

Nearly half of Americans say they’d encourage their child to play a different sport than football due to concerns about concussions.
Image: VICIS Zero1 helmet
VICIS Zero1 helmet is displayed in New York. The helmet that performed best in NFL testing this year is being used by 50 players spread across only half of the NFL teams.Mark Lennihan / AP file

WASHINGTON — Just days before the Super Bowl, 48 percent of Americans say they’d encourage a child who wanted to play football to play a different sport due to concerns about concussions — up 8 points since the same question was asked four years ago, according to the latest national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

That includes 46 percent of parents with a child in the household (up 9 points since 2014), 53 percent of mothers (up 13 points) and 39 percent of fathers (up 6 points).

Overall, 49 percent of Americans disagree, saying they wouldn’t encourage a child to play another sport due to concerns about concussions.

In addition, the NBC/WSJ poll found that 33 percent of Americans believe the National Football League has taken meaningful action to reduce and prevent concussions — down from 41 percent in 2014. (Twenty-eight percent said the NFL had not taken meaningful action, up 8 points since 2014.)

The poll — which was taken after findings of brain disease in deceased NFL football players, as well as after some players began protesting during the national anthem — shows a decline in those who say they closely follow professional football.

According to the survey, 49 percent say they follow the NFL closely, down 9 points since 2014.

By contrast, 51 percent say they don’t follow it closely, which is up 9 points from four years ago.

The biggest declines in close followers have come from demographic groups making up key parts of President Donald Trump’s political base; Trump has criticized NFL players for taking a knee in protest at racial inequality before games.

Those demographic groups include men ages 18-49 (a drop of 24 points), men without college degrees (-23 points) and white men (-22 points).

By contrast, there has been almost no change among African-Americans (59 percent of whom say they closely follow pro football, versus 58 percent in 2014); Latinos (53 percent are close followers now, versus 51 percent four years ago); or women (47 percent now, same as in 2014).

The NBC/WSJ poll was conducted Jan. 13-17 with 900 adults — including nearly half reached by cellphone — and has an overall margin of error of plus-minus 3.3 percentage points.