Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Kiddie Concussions

The concussion story that has become central to the NFL (and I have blogged about from time to time) has made its way through college and high school sports.  That we still have not gotten smart about concussions and the youngest football players is simply appalling:
But the game, an obvious mismatch between teams from neighboring towns in central Massachusetts, went on, with Southbridge building a 28-0 lead in the first quarter. The game went on without the officials intervening. It went on despite the fact that the Braves, with three of their players already knocked out of the game, no longer had the required number of players to participate.
Even with what are known as “mercy rules” — regulations designed to limit a dominant team’s ability to run up scores — the touchdowns kept coming, and so did the concussions. When the game ended, the final score was 52-0, and five preadolescent boys had head injuries, the last hurt on the final play of the game.
Sure, kids were taken out and not sent back into the game, but the damage just accumulated.  I guess the best way to put this into perspective is when we repeatedly here NFL players say that they will not let their kids play football.  They know the damage it causes, they were willing to incur said damage because they wanted to improve the lot of their families (although much of the money can be lost--still waiting to see the ESPN 30 for 30 doc "Broke"), but they don't want their kids to go through it.

At least, this time, there were some consequences for the grownups:
Late last week, league officials suspended the coaches for both teams for the rest of the season. The referees who oversaw the game were barred from officiating any more contests in the Central Massachusetts Pop Warner league, and the presidents of both programs were put on probation.
Probably only because this story hit the news.

Still, parents remain stupid:
Yet even as the Southbridge team pummeled Tantasqua that day, parents on the losing side of the field wanted their sons to soldier on. “We were trying to play a football game,” one parent of a Tantasqua player wrote in an e-mail. “Every kid who was out there wanted to play and not give up. "
The parents need to be adults and realize that there is a mismatch and end the game.
It’s shocking there were five concussions diagnosed because it means there were probably many more,” said Chris Nowinski, president of the Sports Legacy Institute, a nonprofit organization involved in research on brain trauma among athletes and members of the military. “And with a roster that small, the kids might have felt pressure to keep playing.”
Speaking generally about youth coaches, he said, “If you consider the coach is a fool, there are no rules that are foolproof.”
 I am not sure that the NFL will cease to exist because of the concussion problem, but I would not invest in the future of the Pop Warner football leagues.  Sooner or later, these teams are going toget smaller and smaller as parents realize what they are risking.  A few lawsuits and poof. 

I have had one concussion from frisbee--I ran into a tree throwing the disk around a courtyard.  Otherwise, it has been all ankles and scrapes.  If I had one recommendation for sports directors and parents, it would be to switch from expensive and dangerous football to cheap and safe ultimate frisbee.  Alas, it will not happen soon enough.

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