Patrick Hruby has written an outstanding article on the subject of brain trauma and the implications for the future of football for Yahoo! Sports’ new online magazine ThePostGame. It’s eye-opening, scary, and impactful.
It’s hard to read this piece and not come away thinking that football’s days are numbered — at least as a mainstream youth activity and sport sanctioned by public schools. Football is simply too dangerous. Rule changes and equipment advances won’t ultimately be able to save the sport for our young people. The sport of football, by its nature, causes numerous jolts to the skull, meaning the brain is regularly tossed around inside that skull like jello.
We’ve known for several years now that concussions aren’t good for short-or-long-term health. We’ve heard that Second Impact Syndrome (SIS), a second blow to the brain quickly following a concussion, can be extremely dangerous and even fatal. In recent years, we’ve heard about how a history of concussions is associated with a brain disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). CTE symptoms include depression, erratic behavior, memory lapses, and eventually dementia. But the scariest findings coming out of recent brain trauma research is that repetitive subconcussive hits can have major negative consequences for the brain — especially the young developing brain. A football player (or hockey or soccer player, or anyone who is the victim of repetitive brain trauma can develop CTE even without having suffered a concussion. Wow.
“Evidence suggests that CTE — the silent killer, the disease that turns players’ brains into ticking time bombs, slowly driving them mad — is caused not only by concussions but also by sub-concussive trauma,” writes Hruby. “Little hits. Little hits like the 1,000 – 1,500 blows to the head that the average high school football lineman absorbs in a single season, according to estimates by Boston researchers.”
Can football be saved for our young people? Undoubtedly, every attempt will be made to find a way to make football safer. Limiting the number of hits to the head that players receive in practice is probably the first place to start. But ultimately, the question is, how “brain safe” can tackle football ever be?
“Protect our national pastime,” writes Hruby. “Protect our children’s brains. The hope is that we can do both. Biology and physics suggest otherwise. Safer does not mean safe.”
We’re at the beginning of the end for youth and high school football.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman, and has a long involvement with the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sport (now called the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition). We discuss the state of college athletics today, given the pressures of NIL, the transfer portal, sports gambling and huge media contracts. McMillen then provides great perspective on the poor state of physical fitness our young people are experiencing today.
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More Episodes on Apple Podcasts; Spotify; Google Podcasts; PocketCasts; & Anchor
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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Ken Reed’s Author Page on Amazon