By Ken Reed
Here’s the bottom line truth about football: You can’t take the head out of the game.
Nevertheless, the NFL wants youth sports parents to believe you can. Their propaganda campaign for USA Football called “Heads Up,” tries to build the illusion that you can actually take the head out of the game of football.
Former NFL player Nate Jackson calls the Heads Up program “shameless. You can’t remove the head from play in the football field. The only way to remove the head from the tackle is to remove your body from the field.”
The NFL has invested $1.5 million into the Heads Up program and is the program’s sole funder. There’s no scientific evidence the Heads Up program prevents brain trauma, concussions, or short or long-term brain damage.
What we do know is that the head is a significant part of a violent game. We also know that while helmets do a great job preventing skull fractures, they do a terrible job preventing concussions. The reason is that the brain is like Jello in a bowl. Contact causes the brain to slosh up agains the side of the skull in a whiplash effect similar to Jello sloshing up against the side of the bowl upon impact. There isn’t a helmet that can prevent the sloshing effect that goes on inside the skull. Moreover, football players can sustain concussions without even taking a blow to the head. For example, if a runner takes a vicious shot to the chest, a concussion can occur from the whiplash effect of the head being whipped around.
One part of the Heads Up program that is positive is teaching coaches concussion awareness. That can help coaches identify potential concussions and help them understand when to get players out of a game or practice, preventing further brain damage such as Second Impact Syndrome, which can result in death.
However, programs like this should be led by third parties without a vested interest in the game, not the NFL and its propaganda arm USA Football.
“The reality is you can’t put this in the hands of the NFL to govern,” said Michael Oriard, a former Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman and Distinguished Professor of American Literature at Oregon State University who recently wrote a cultural history on the role of the head in football. “Even with the best possible intentions, the corporate NFL has its needs and interests. You don’t let the tobacco industry regulate what’s safe in terms of smoking, but parents are kind of in that position here.”
Jackson calls the Heads Up program a shameless PR move by an organization interested in “profit, profit, profit.” He wants an honest approach to the issue of brain trauma in youth football.
“I think that it’s important to have a conversation with parents in this country about really what they’re risking with their kids,” says Jackson.
So true. But you can count the NFL out when it comes to having an honest, realistic conversation about the dangers of youth football.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
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Episode #16 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Andrew Maraniss: Outstanding Author of Books That Focus On the Intersection of Sports, History and Social Justice.
Episode #15 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Psychology with Dr. Tim Rice. We discuss the growth of sports psychology at all levels, the positive impact that a number of high profile athletes have had by opening up, and the importance of everyone involved in sports caring for the whole athlete, mind and body.
Episode #14 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Making Sense of the Injury Pandemic in Major League Baseball – Gary McCoy is a strength, conditioning and high performance coach who has worked with several Major League Baseball organizations.
Episode #13 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Conversation With Long-Time MLB Exec Dan Evans About What’s Right With Baseball and What Could Be Better – Evans is a former general manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers and is currently a consultant for Go the Distance Baseball, which owns the Field of Dreams movie site.
Episode #12 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Fun Chat With Dan Gutman, Author of the Baseball Card Adventure Series for Kids
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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