Concussions in football is a crisis that hits close to home for San Diegans. Any discussion of it nationwide usually includes Junior Seau, the former Chargers player who suffered from a degenerative brain disease when he committed suicide that wasn’t discovered until after his death.
But as more horror stories emerge — whether player suicide or long-term debilitation — football seems to be as popular as ever. “Even with mounting evidence that the sport poses both immediate and long-term risks, and can muddle an athlete’s brain years after the final whistle sounds, football’s mix of brutality and grace captures regional pride, young manhood, school spirit,” Mario Koran wrote this week.
Nationally, participation in football among high-school students was up at the start of the fall season. A cluster of coaches at San Diego Unified schools, however, reported their rosters were shrinking. The U-T spoke to coaches at Patrick Henry, Serra and Scripps Ranch high schools, and each said he’d lost players “because of parents’ concerns for the safety of the sport. They’ve lost others who suffered a concussion and out of an abundance of caution were advised by a doctor not to play anymore.”
That “abundance of caution” could be because we still don’t know much about the long-term effects of football-related concussions. But efforts at the state level and in individual schools around the region seek to cut down on early trauma in youth programs.