By Ken Reed

In March, Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians said parents are “fools” if they won’t let their kids play football.

Last week, he decided he’d only attack female parents. Male parents are now apparently okay in his wandering mind.

“We feel like this is our sport,” said Arians at a high school football clinic last Friday.

“It’s being attacked, and we got to stop it at the grass roots. It’s the best game that’s ever been f—— invented, and we got to make sure that moms get the message; because that’s who’s afraid of our game right now. It’s not dads, it’s moms.”

Arians apparently missed the January 2015 MSNBC poll on this topic. That poll found that 40 percent of women and 32 percent of men would encourage their children to play a sport other than football. Over a year later, and after more research findings have been published, those numbers are undoubtedly higher today.

Arians likely hasn’t taken the time to look at the growing mound of research that shows that repetitive blows to the head are dangerous to the human brain, especially human brains that are still developing like those found in youth and high school football. And it’s not just concussions that are of concern. Sub-concussive impacts, even those that cause no symptoms, can be just as dangerous as concussions over the long haul.

In addition, Arians probably hasn’t studied the work of Dr. Bennett Omalu, the neuropathologist who first discovered chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the brain disease caused by repetitive blows to the brain, during an autopsy of former Pittsburgh Steelers All-Pro Mike Webster in 2002.

“We’ve known since 1964 that cigarette smoking is harmful to your health,” wrote Omalu in a New York Times op-ed in December of last year.

“We’ve known for more than 40 years that alcohol damages the developing brain of a child. We’ve known since the mid-70s that asbestos causes cancer and other serious diseases. Knowing what we know now, we do not smoke in enclosed public spaces like airplanes; we have passed laws to keep children from smoking or drinking alcohol; and we do not use asbestos as an industrial product.

“As we become more intellectually sophisticated and advanced, with greater and broader access to information and knowledge, we have given up old practices in the name of safety and progress. That is, except when it comes to sports. Over the past two decades it has become clear that repetitive blows to the head in high-impact contact sports like football, ice hockey, mixed martial arts, and boxing place athletes at risk of permanent brain damage. … Why, then, do we continue to intentionally expose our children to this risk?

“If a child who plays football is subjected to advanced radiological and neurocognitive studies during the season and several months after the season, there can be evidence of brain damage at the cellular level of brain functioning, even if there were no documented concussions or reported symptoms. If that child continues to play over many seasons, these cellular injuries accumulate to cause irreversible brain damage, which we know now by the name Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or C.T.E ….”

Hey Bruce, maybe that’s why parents — men and women — are concerned.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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