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.
The efforts are in line with recommendations cited in an L.A. Times story earlier this year. Here’s Dr. Jeffrey Bazarian, an emergency physician at the University of Rochester Medical Center:
“We really need to know what these players look like 10 to 15 years from now, and we have to do the hard work of knowing what the threshold is, in terms of hits to the head, for hippocampal damage.” Doing that, he suggested, could guide parents and coaches in limiting the duration or frequency of games, scrimmages or practices in which contact is made, or to recognize a blow to the head short of concussion that should trigger a recovery period for an athlete.
Changes From Up Top
• A new state law took effect at the start of 2015 that limits the amount of time middle-school and high-school students can participate in full-contact football drills to 90 minutes, twice a week. The U-T further boiled down AB 2127: “The law also bans full-contact practice during the off-season and requires the California Interscholastic Federation to create a protocol for an athlete who suffers a concussion.”
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Worth a watch: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/league-of-denial/
@Kelly Abbott I just watched the pbs show you referenced. It ought to be required viewing for every adult before their son or daughter can play tackle football. Furthermore every high school and college student should have to watch it as well.
Thank you for calling it to our attention.
There is abundant evidence that if you play football, you have a chance of sustaining debilitating, lifelong brain injury. There is further evidence that youth players are at particularly high risk. There is no evidence that any of the protective measures being advanced are effective, except that of course if you participate in the sport less frequently your chance of sustaining injury declines proportionately. And if you don't participate in the sport at all, then your chance of sustaining football related brain injury declines to zero. Parents really need to think this through carefully.
A few years ago, when things got too violent, an edict was enacted that banned spikes on chariot wheels.