By Ken Reed
Terry Frei, a writer for the Denver Post, had a powerful feature on Greg Ploetz, a former University of Texas football player, and his wife Deb, this past weekend.
Greg Ploetz is suffering from brain damage that Deb and doctors believe is a result of brain trauma from his football-playing days, although the only way to know for sure will be an autopsy when he dies.
Here’s a quick excerpt from Frei’s article:
While she and her husband, Greg Ploetz — a former Texas Longhorns standout defensive tackle diagnosed with mixed dementia and frontal lobe damage — were living in the Denver area last fall, Deb Ploetz drove past a kids football game in a park.
“I wanted so bad to go tell them, ‘Do not let your son play football,'” Deb said on the phone recently.
“It’s sad. It’s a wonderful sport, but if you lived through this, what we’ve lived through, you wouldn’t want it for your grandchild. We have a new grandbaby — he’s 16 months — and I hope to God he doesn’t play football.”
Today, monitoring Greg is a “monumental” 24/7 job, one that Deb has decided to try to take on herself, with some family help. Deb pulled Greg out of a Texas care facility because they had him drugged so heavily he was drooling.
“Brain trauma not only destroys the lives of some players, it destroys the lives of the people around them,” says Patrick Hruby, a sports and culture writer who has examined the issue of brain trauma in football extensively.
Consider the life of Deb Ploetz today and it would be hard to disagree with Hruby’s statement.
Greg’s former Texas teammate, Julius Whittier, is suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s Disease. He was named as the lead in a $50 million class-action lawsuit against the NCAA on behalf of former college football players who didn’t make the NFL but have suffered serious brain injuries.
Ann McKee is a neruopatholigist and a leading brain concussion researcher. Her advice to young football players is similar to Deb Ploetz’. When asked how she’d advise her 19-year-old son if he was offered a chance to play in the NFL, she said, “I’d say, ‘Don’t. Not if you want to have a life after football.’”
Here are a few reasons McKee might feel that way:
A study commissioned by the NFL and reported in 2009, found that the number of former NFL players between the ages 30 and 49 – 30 and 49! — that have received a diagnosis of “dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or other memory-related disease” is 19 times the national average for that age group.
In addition, according to University of North Carolina neuroscientist Kevin Guzkiewicz, players who have suffered multiple concussions are three times more likely to suffer depression.
And the life expectancy of NFL players today is 55, according to a 2011 study by the Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center at the University of North Carolina.
As Frei concludes his article, “This isn’t going away. Sadly, it isn’t.”
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
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, with over 150 camps in 30+ U.S. states and Canada. We discuss problems in youth sports today, including single sport specialization, the growing gap between the “haves” and “have-nots,” the high drop-out rate in competitive sports, and the growing mental health challenges young athletes are dealing with today.
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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.
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.
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.
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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