By Ken Reed
In the early days of American football, skull fractures and severe head lacerations were a major problem. Today’s high-tech helmets have virtually eliminated skull fractures and lacerations from the game.
However, despite the hopes and wishes of parents, coaches, and players, there’s very little a helmet can do to prevent concussions and other forms of brain trauma. The reason is that the brain is like Jell-O bouncing up against the walls of the skull after a blow to the head. It’s the whiplash effect that leads to concussions, not necessarily strikes to the head. That’s why players can receive concussions without even being hit in the head. A blow to the chest can send the brain splashing against the skull with as much force as a head-to-head shot.
Bottom line, there simply isn’t a way to design a helmet that will prevent the brain from bouncing up against the walls of the skull after contact.
That’s a serious legal and economic problem for football helmet manufacturers. They certainly understand this. Consider this warning label on Schutt football helmets: “No helmet system can protect you from serious brain and/or neck injuries including paralysis or death. To avoid these risks, do not engage in the sport of football.”
“The language has definitely ratcheted up to make people understand that the helmet can’t prevent all injuries,” says Mark Granger, a lawyer who helps companies write product warnings.
The brain trauma issue isn’t just a legal and economic concern for helmet manufacturers. State high school athletic associations and high school athletic directors across the country are being forced to face a potential scenario in which a spate of concussion lawsuits results in insurance premiums rising too high for schools to be able to continue offering football to students.
And it’s just not concussions we’re concerned about today. Repetitive subconcussive hits to the head may cause as much damage as concussion-causing hits. Purdue researchers have compared changes in the brains of high school football players who had suffered concussions with the brains of high school football players who were concussion free and found brain tissue damage in both. That’s scary stuff. That means brain injuries are occurring without players, coaches or parents being aware of it.
The mound of research studies highlighting the dangers to the brain from playing football continues to grow. It’s becoming increasingly clear that football is too dangerous for the human brain. It’s hazardous to one’s health. That makes the fact that approximately 1.3 million high school football players are starting football practice this month in preparation for a new season scary indeed.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #10 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: An Issues Discussion With Paul Dolan – Dolan is the Cleveland Indians Owner and CEO. He discusses the use of Native American names and logos by sports teams and the decisions to drop the Chief Wahoo logo and the upcoming change to the team name. Other baseball topics include health and safety, possible MLB rule changes and youth participation in the sport.
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Episode #9 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Issues With Ralph Nader – Nader is a consumer advocate and was named one of the “100 Most Influential Americans of the 20th Century” by Time magazine. He is the founder of League of Fans.
Episode #8 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Save College Sports From Overcommercialization and Professionalization? – The guest is Dr. David Ridpath, a sports business professor and past president of the Drake Group
Episode #7 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Brain Trauma and CTE Risk in Sports With Dr. Ann McKee – Dr. McKee works in the field of neuropathology and has demonstrated that “mild” repetitive head trauma can provoke chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a devastating neurodegenerative disease.
Episode #6 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Need for Quality Physical Education in Our Schools is Greater Than Ever – The guest is Clayton Ellis, one of our nation’s leading advocates for getting our young people to be more physically active.
Episode #5 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Youth Sports with Positive Coaching Alliance Founder Jim Thompson – Thompson started Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) in 1998 to help create a movement to transform the culture of youth sports from “win-at-all-costs” to a positive, character-building experience.
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.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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.
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