While channel surfing the other day, I landed on a football game at the precise moment two opposing players collided helmet-to-helmet -- like charging Mack trucks -- and collapsed. One got up, but the other was rolled off the field to an ambulance and I thought, that could happen to my grandson, Jordan.
Jordan is 15 and plays on his high school football team. He loves the game, but I worry about the danger.
Recently, PBS's Frontline aired "League of Denial: NFL's Concussion Crisis." Despite the epidemic of dementia and psychosis among retired NFL athletes, the League denies concussion as causation. Each week now, PBS's website posts the number of NFL players sidelined by concussions: As of today, the tally is 152. Every time I check, the number goes up. How many more brains will be pureed before Super Bowl Sunday?
National Academy of Sciences published a study concluding that high school football players are twice as likely to sustain brain injuries than college players. Jordan's 15-year-old brain is still growing. When his head gets hit, his brain reverberates more forcefully than an adult's. The likelihood of that happening is significant because Jordan plays hard.
It's no coincidence the kids push themselves beyond their physical limits to prove themselves worthy. High school coaches dangle the carrot by teaching the boys that if they distinguish themselves on the gridiron, college scholarships, fame and fortune await. If Jordan gets injured, he may not tell his coach or his parents because my grandson is determined to win that football scholarship.
More head injuries happen during football practice than at the games, according to a study by Virginia Tech's School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences. During the high school football season, Jordan has practice 18 hours a week and a scheduled game every weekend.
The alarming rate of dementia and suicides among NFL players hasn't stopped parents from sending off their 7-year-old boys to football camps so that they may someday get into the leagues. When it comes to football, common sense does not apply.
On the Today Show, future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Brett Favre said if he had a son, "I would be real leery of him playing" football. Denver Broncos' John Moffitt quit the NFL because after repeated hits to the head, floaters now cross his vision. "I don't want to risk health for money," Moffitt told the New York Times.
I concede football gives boys a way to channel their energy and build strong bodies. But I want Jordan to succeed in life by his brains, not his brawn. I'd rather he join the Chess Team and not be a damaged ex-football hero.
I don't attend my grandson's games because I cannot feign enthusiasm for what I consider to be a potentially deadly activity. Helmet-to-helmet collisions kill high school football players. I blame our football culture for encouraging, aiding and abetting the physical destruction of our youth through this violent contact sport.
Wake up, America! We are sacrificing our sons' neurological health to football. Ra ra sis boom bah humbug.
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