By Ken Reed
I regularly receive notes, letters, and phone calls from readers of League of Fans’ blogs, op-ed columns, position papers, etc. I recently received a note from a father who had read my column in the Chicago Tribune titled “It’s Time to Ban High School Football.” He, his wife, and son were discussing the pros and cons of football participation in light of the growing mound of research implicating football as harmful to the human brain. These kinds of discussions are going to increasingly be part of the American landscape as football players, parents, coaches, media members and others begin to wonder if their continued involvement with football is appropriate.
Here’s the original letter and our short discussion:
I found Dr. Reed’s excellent article on the need to end High School football in the Chicago Tribune. I was researching the treacherous issue of HS football injuries, and was glad to see a name associated with the integrity of Ralph Nader.
I’m a father of a high school sophomore. My son’s mom and I aren’t together, and she let him sign up for football against my wishes. She has challenged me to come up with statistics showing that ‘football is more dangerous than driving.’ I’m actually concerned about the dangers of both, but I do intend to let him drive, so I am wanting to do a statistical comparison. Can you point me to any studies from which I might extract an apples-to-apples comparison? I realize it probably isn’t in one place, so I’m willing to keep doing some research, but I would appreciate any suggestions you could give..
Best wishes in your important work. Sincerely,
Thank you for the nice words. I don’t have the stats you’re after or even thoughts on where to lead you.
However, I would point out that the purpose of driving a car is to transport oneself, and perhaps others, from one location to another. Accidents happen while following that objective.
The purpose of football is to physically strike the players lined up in front of you. That’s an inherent part of the game. And as I believe I mentioned in the column, brain damage doesn’t even have to come from head-to-head contact. A blow to the chest can cause a whiplash effect where the brain is pounded against the inside of the skull causing a concussion or at least sub-concussive brain damage.
Accidents happen to young people riding bicycles but physical contact isn’t part of the intent of riding bikes whereas it is a major part of the intent of football.
Respectfully, to you and your wife, comparing the dangers of driving a car to the dangers of football is, I believe, an apples to oranges comparison.
I sincerely appreciate how hard a decision this is for your family. Football is a big part of school cultures and our society’s culture as a whole. However, the brain is the seat of our awareness, it’s who we are. It isn’t a torn up knee or ankle.
In terms of physical exercise, teamwork, leadership, perseverance, etc. — all the many positives from football participation — those things can be gained from participating in many other sports — none of which have as a primary intent inflicting physical damage on opposing players.
All the best to you, your wife and son.
Thanks so much for giving perspective to our discussion. I will pursue the solid studies you cited in your editorial. Hopefully, that impartial evidence will help us push upstream against the current flow of culture.
Again, thanks a lot.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
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.” We discuss overzealous adults in youth sports, the dangers of sport specialization, youth sports entrepreneurs and the profit-at-all-costs mindset, and the growing socio-economic gap in youth sports.
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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.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Episode #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan.
Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
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.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
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.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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