STL Moms: Weighing the health risks of kids’ sports

ST. LOUIS, Mo. - When divorced parents disagree on whether their child should participate in sports due to health concerns, who is to decide what's best for the child?

John Orsini believed his son, who suffered three concussions, one from baseball and two from football, should not play football anymore because the child showed symptoms of post-concussion syndrome. The mother, however, disagreed and so did the son.

To resolve this problem, the family went to court, where judges eventually ruled that the mother could be in charge of deciding whether the boy participated or not.

Should family courts be making these decisions?

Jonathan Marks from The Marks Law Firm weighs in on this discussion.

In Missouri, as in all states, a court has a duty to act in the best interest of the children, and if changed circumstances arise that affect the health or welfare of a child, the court has a statutory duty to intervene when asked by one of the parents. But judges are not physicians, and it is not surprising that courts reach very different results despite the medical literature that demonstrates the risk of post-concussion syndrome in teenagers and the long-term damage it could cause—not just in football, but also hockey and soccer.

These cases illustrate one of the weaknesses of family court—they make poor substitutes for cooperative parenting. They lack sufficient knowledge and they have to deal with issues of precedent. For example, if one judge finds football too risky, more parents who object will return to court and try to get that judge and ultimately that could lead to a de facto ban on football for children of divorced parents.

Overall, it seems that the point is not whether children should play football or not; the point is that parents together should make this decision and not the courts. Otherwise, oftentimes, everyone loses.