By Ken Reed
Two of the best sports reformers and activist journalists we have in this country are Dave Zirin and Patrick Hruby.
Recently, the two of them sat down together as part of an Edge of Sports podcast to talk about an important issue in this country: whether or not children and teenagers should be playing tackle football in general, and in publicly-financed schools in particular.
It was an interesting and enlightening discussion. Both Zirin and Hruby talked about what a strong cultural force football is in the United States. They also acknowledged the positives of the sport. But for the most part, their discussion centered around the medical and ethical issues surrounding youth and high school football. The discussion was spurred by Hruby’s well-researched article on the subject.
Here’s one compelling exchange between the two:
[Zirin] “Messing with your brain in that period (14-18-years-old), we’re talking about messing with people’s entire futures. That’s undeniable.”
[Hruby] I agree, and that’s one of the things that scares some of the researchers I talk to. Which is, that window (14-18) you’re talking about. You know, the brain doesn’t fully stop developing until your mid-20’s. And the stuff that’s developing in high school is your sense of judgment, your frontal lobe and your impulse control … And so those researchers are very concerned that the high schooler’s brain might actually be more vulnerable to the kinds of insults it’s getting in football. And that factors not only medically, but ethically, into the case against this (youth and high school football).”
Zirin and Hruby end their discussion by talking about how cultural attitudes towards football might eventually change. They talked about change coming about more effectively from a bottom-up approach (individual families, local school boards and administrators, etc.) vs. a forced top-down approach (ban on youth and high school football).
Finally, Hruby mentioned that a scientific breakthrough could speed things up.
“The one thing that would totally change it a lot faster would be if they come up with a test for CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) in a living brain. The first person that studies a high school team and they find like 10% or 5% (of players with CTE) … America would freak out.”
Freak out indeed.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
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.” We discuss overzealous adults in youth sports, the dangers of sport specialization, youth sports entrepreneurs and the profit-at-all-costs mindset, and the growing socio-economic gap in youth sports.
Follow on Facebook: @SportsForumPodcast
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.
Episode #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan.
Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
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.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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