Center member studies influential factors on adults allowing children to participate in contact sports

August 31, 2021


By admin

Children running after soccer ball.

University of Michigan School of Kinesiology PhD candidate Allyssa Memmini has published research studying factors that influence an adult’s decision to allow a child to participate in contact sports. 

Published in the Journal of Athletic Training, the article “Evaluating adult decision-making modifiers in support of youth contact sports participation” evaluates the perceptions of adults with and without children.  

According to Memmini, this is one of the first papers to do so.

Memmini’s analyses suggested female parents were more inclined than male parents to allow a child to play contact sports, especially football, ice hockey, and soccer. Her analyses also showed that previous adult sports participation, an increased number of children, and a child’s gender influenced the decision-making among adults with children. 

When it came to sport-related concussions, parents who indicated their own prior concussions were less likely to allow contact sport participation; however, those parents who had greater confidence in their own concussion knowledge were more likely to allow contact sport participation. 

Previous participation in football, hockey, and soccer also increased the likelihood of adults without children supporting contact sport participation.

Memmini was surprised by one area: both groups of adults were less inclined to support a daughter participating in a contact sport compared to a son. She theorized that adults may label certain sports as either “masculine” or “feminine” and push a child towards sports perceived as more socially suitable.

Allyssa Memmini headshot

Allyssa Memmini

“Some of the themes we uncovered open the door to look into how gender schema theory influences adult decision-making in terms of youth sports participation,” Memmini said. 

Memmini also saw a trend tied to parents’ educational levels. Adults with children who had a bachelor’s degree or higher were more inclined to allow a child to participate in all contact sports, especially soccer, when compared to adults with children who did not have a college degree. Adults with bachelor’s degrees or higher were also less likely to allow participation in football. Adults without children who had bachelor’s degrees or higher were less likely to allow participation in football and hockey and had decreasing support for youth contact sports. However, those adults who identified as medical practitioners were 2.3 times more likely to support youth contact sport participation.

Memmini said these results tell her that more information may need to be provided to parents as to what sports are considered “high-risk” for concussion.

“This work is emphasizing that adults may need further advocates to help them understand some of the risks their children may be enduring depending on which sport they participate in beyond football and ice hockey,” she said.

Finally, Memmini suggested that adults talk to a local athletic trainer to get more information. 

“An on-site athletic trainer may be able to answer some of those questions parents may have, especially in youth athletics,” she said.