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Contact Sports Are Not Safe for Children
Donna O’Donnell Figurski
In 4-6 weeks, American football players will be getting ready for the 2014-2015 season. Millions of people enjoy playing the sport – from the pros in the NFL to college and high school athletes to young children in Pop Warner leagues. Millions more enjoy watching the sport and participating in pools and fantasy leagues. There is no question that football is a major part of US culture.
I admit I enjoy watching the game, but do players and spectators really know the risk involved? As a TBI survivor and someone who has learned first-hand how a brain injury can dramatically change a person and affect his or her life, as well as significantly change the lives of loved ones, I have become acutely aware of the dark side of contact sports. This revelation has been reinforced by the interviews Donna has published on this blog.
Many of the news items posted here have to do with the risk of brain injury in contact sports. Donna and I also posted an opinion about the danger of some sports to children. In fact, one of the TBI survivor interviews was by a young girl whose brain was injured during a volleyball match. On Thursday, Donna and I watched the PBS Frontline report (available online) called “League of Denial” about the NFL and its policy on concussions. The next interview will be from a former defensive lineman of the San Francisco 49ers, who had to quit because of a brain injury. A recent documentary, “Gladiators: The Uncertain Future of American Football” (trailer here), depicts the brutality of football. On the other hand, Roger Goodell, the Commissioner of the NFL, has gotten behind the Zackary Lystedt Law, which is designed to protect young players with a concussion. The PBS and Lystedt videos show contrasting sides of the NFL. I recommend watching both.
Knowing what I know now has greatly diminished my enthusiasm for contact sports, especially football. I see a crisis growing, but awareness by the public is also increasing. It is important that we make at least players, parents, coaches, and educators fully aware of the risk to the developing brains of young people. A brain injury can affect someone’s entire life. No parent wants that for his or her child. We who know need to speak out.
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