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 #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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