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
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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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