By Ken Reed
Football starts in earnest this weekend for youth, high school, and college football teams. It’s estimated that there are 3.5 million youth football players, 1.3 million high school football players, and 100,000 college football players in this country.
The vast majority of the players and their parents aren’t aware of the brain trauma risks involved with football, don’t know the signs and symptoms of concussion, and aren’t familiar with recommended return-to-play guidelines if a player is suspected of possibly having a concussion.
That’s scary because there’s a growing mound of research that concludes that football is dangerous to the human brain. Recently, more and more researchers and doctors have become vocal in expressing their concerns about the safety of football, and whether or not young people should be participating in the game.
“Youngsters are at much greater risk than adults in terms of concussion … because their brains are not myelinated fully,” says Dr. Robert Cantu.
“Myelin is the coating of nerve fibers like coating on the telephone wire. It gives better transmission, but it also gives it greater strength. So a child’s brain is much more easily damaged from acceleration forces imparted to it. … youngsters have disproportionately large heads, very weak necks. And this combination means that a force delivered to a youngster will have much greater injurious effects to the brain.”
Lewis Margolis and Gregory Margolis, public health researchers, believe that the people who are aware of the research on football, brain trauma, and the short and long-term effects of brain injuries, need to speak out more often and more forcefully.
“Football-related head trauma and concussions have raised sentinel alarms, so all who care about children and young adults must not remain silent as this epidemic spreads. The principles of informed consent, nonmaleficence, fairness, and community participation demand a halt in the way the game is played, until the risks are better understood and controlled.”
Co-authors of an Indiana University study looking at football-related health incidents, Dr. Jared R. Brosch and Dr. Meredith R. Golomb wrote:
“Organized childhood tackle football in the United States can begin at age 5 years, leading to potentially decades of repeated brain injuries. In addition, the body mass index of the United States pediatric football-playing population continues to increase, so the forces experienced by tackled pediatric players continue to increase. Further work is needed to understand how repeated high-impact large-force trauma from childhood football affects the immature central nervous system.”
On a personal level, one expert on football injuries has already seen enough research.
“If I had a son now, there’s no way in hell he’d play football. Wouldn’t happen,” says Dr. Charles Yesalis. “I couldn’t permit it as an epidemiologist.”
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a long-time member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
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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. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
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.
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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