What do you think about the future of football? John Moffitt, who played football for nearly 20 years, recently gave up $1million and quit the NFL because he didn’t want to further risk his health. He had concluded he was a pawn in a machine that controlled his life and no longer wanted to play for the money and to please others.
17-year old Kendrick Calkins wrote, “I visited a practice with my old team, the Castro Valley Trojans, where I saw some head butting going on. It’s been illegal to ram someone with the top of your helmet in high school football for years, but it still happens because with your head down you can get more leverage and more power behind your hit. Coaches find it’s hard to teach against effectiveness. But a hard tackle can have a price. According to a survey by the Nationwide Children’s Hospital, young athletes across all sports suffer 300,000 concussionseach year.
“Now, with a growing body of evidence linking football to chronic brain injury and the recent publication of the book League of Denial, there’s more concern about the safety of the game. Some high schools are trying to change how teams play and practice, but they have a long way to go…” Calkins’ article, Is your school protecting your head? was in the SF Chronicle October 29, 2013. “I’ve been around football my whole life. My family loves the game, and started me in a Pop Warner league when I was 7. At that age, I just liked having a sport that gave me permission to hit.
“While comparing high school football safety and new NFL standards, I went to local schools and found many stories about injuries, and even a high school football commissioner questioning whether he would let his own kids play.”
Recently I saw the excellent PBS Frontline documentary on the NFL and brain damage. And I read that children with brain injuries are nearly twice as likely to suffer from depression, published in an article by the American Academy of Neurology October 26. Researchers sought to identify the prevalence of depression in children with brain injuries, including concussions, in the U.S.“15 percent of those with brain injuries or concussions in 2007 were diagnosed as depressed—a 4.9 fold increase compared to other children. Study author Matthew C. Wylie, MD, said, ‘After adjustment for known predictors of depression in children like family structure, developmental delay and poor physical health, depression remained two times more likely in children with brain injury or concussion.’”
17-year old Kendrick Calkins continued, “In California, which has the second-largest number of high school football players in America, there is no limit on tackling in practice, even though that’s what the NFL does to protect players. And when a player has a concussion, it can be hard to identify…. The injury won’t even show up on an X-ray. So how do we know when someone has this kind of injury to the brain?
“One teenager I talked to… got a concussion during a practice, but it was not immediately diagnosed. During the next game, he kicked three successful field goals, but on the fourth he didn’t know which direction he was supposed to be kicking. His coach pulled him from the game and he was later diagnosed with a concussion.
“If it’s up to us players, we’ll stay on the field as long as we can. You never want to get pulled out of a game or practice.
“Football is a tough sport, and the game prizes toughness in its players. You feel weak when you sit out, and your injury hurts more when you let your team down. But football is not just about physical sacrifice; it’s also about smarts. You have to be able to read the plays, and you have to know when it’s safe.
“That’s something parents and teenagers have to think through together. Does your school’s team have a medically trained person on staff? Does the team limit tackling in practice? Do players get a baseline medical exam before the season starts? It’s worth asking these questions before you join a team. However you look at it, football’s a dangerous game. Even so, it’s my favorite sport by far.”
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