Football and C.H.S. - are we acting responsibly?

From article in N.Y.T., 111/17/23, about high school football injuries connected to brain damage:  "But as we learn more about what contact sports can do to the brain, it may be harder to justify letting children play."

This brings me back to my high school days. Jimmy Story died during a pre-season football practice. He never made it to the 11th grade at Millburn High. I went through elementary school with him as a classmate.

Or there was the kid, this was around 1970. Millburn hired an assistant coach who had previously played for the N.Y. Giants. A kid got hurt in a game and coach pressured the kid to get back in the game. Kid was later diagnosed with a ruptured spleen. Coach was fired.

Then there was Tommy. Tommy was youngest of three brothers, two of whom were Millbutrn stars. His brothers were in the backfield. Tommy was heavier and was the team's center. I remember him crying that he didn't want to play but everyone was making him do it.

And I wrote about Bob on M.O.L., several years ago. I was in the 9th grade. Bob was a senior and played end on the school's football team...the team that won the Suburban Conference trophy that year.  I was 105 and 5'6". There was no way I was going to be on the football team. I envied those guys. They were the most popular guys in the school.

About 5 years later, I recognized him. We were both drunk. I mentioned watching him playing on the team. He broke down in tears, telling about the pain and how much football wasn't fun for him. but his father wanted him to play.

And another Bob. He lived up the street from me. Also an elementary school classmate. Q.B. for Millburn H.S. He got his leg broken during a game. That finished his season. I saw him about 5 years ago, for the first time since h.s. graduation. He is walking, limped over, with a cane. Now, I can't argue if his physical limitations result from his football injury. I'm just glad I didn't make the team.

So, I ask, are we acting responsibly by supporting a football program?

Is our B.o.E. willing to take the heat for proposing this or even bringing it up as a topic for town discussion?


As a TBI survivor myself, I have a hard time even thinking about football and its effects on young kids. 


American Football has achieved religious status in this country. Maybe even higher. Look at what happens every weekend during football season. Friday night lights (HS). Saturday college football from noon til night. Sunday (and Monday and Thursday) NFL games. 

Sports betting. Fantasy leagues and office pools. Have you ever gotten asked what you’re doing for Super Bowl Sunday? I have.

I met a new colleague recently. When I told him where I lived he asked if I was a Jets or Giants fan. He didn’t even ask if I followed football!  When I said I did not follow football he was completely thrown and didn’t know how to talk to me. 

Billions of dollars are spent every year to promote and play the sport at every level. The top paid public employees in most states are college coaches (not all football I grant you). 

https://www.onfocus.news/college-coaches-dominate-highest-paid-state-employees-list/


It’s ingrained in holiday celebrations. It’s woven into our social fabric. Since I stopped following the game years ago I find a lot of social interactions during the football season to be awkward. 

The studies that have come out recently all point to concussions and cte as a predictor of mental problems, depression, dementia etc. When I was younger the attitude was that a concussion was temporary and recovery was just a matter of time. But some of these young athletes suffer multiple head injuries and the effect is cumulative. 

At this point I know I need to get to my point. It’s two-fold. 

1.  Football is a stupid sport on any level. 

2.  Getting rid of high school football is almost impossible given the cult fanaticism for the game in this country. 


Of the top 20 most watched television broadcasts in 2022, 19 were NFL games and the other (9th place) was the State of the Union address. 


I think many if not most kids want to play competitive sports and sports are a good way to learn important life lessons.  Sports helped me in growing up.   Injuries can happen in all sports, even golf.  Rather than ban or not fund school sports teams, the important thing is to require that coaches be trained and repeatedly updated in training in what to be aware of in injuries and other safety hazards.  I am hoping that the newer football helmets work to reduce direct head injuries.  But even with this football is a violent game with lots of hitting that jars the neck and head.     Knee injuries are too frequent.  I wonder if it might be a good rule to require all players in all positions to wear knee braces.    I learned an important life lesson in fourth grade when I taunted the best athlete in our class, who incidentally was a girl, while playing dodgeball.   She totally whacked me on the head with the ball and I learned not to taunt or mess with her or any girls in sports.  She was also the fastest runner in our class.  


I don't mind youth sports, what bothers me is that all of the new safer helmets for football players are very expensive and most high schools don't have them. I assume football equipment is issued by the school and fits as closely as possible.  My son plays ice hockey.  We have to buy and pay for all of our equipment except for the jersey, but it lets us make sure everything is the safest available and fits correctly.


Ain't no helmet gonna prevent CTE. Not possible.

DanDietrich said:

I don't mind youth sports, what bothers me is that all of the new safer helmets for football players are very expensive and most high schools don't have them. I assume football equipment is issued by the school and fits as closely as possible.  My son plays ice hockey.  We have to buy and pay for all of our equipment except for the jersey, but it lets us make sure everything is the safest available and fits correctly.


There are a lot of different possibilities.  If the helmet helps they should have it. 


One of my sons had a serious concussion at Columbia, ended up in the hospital. He never played again. The teacher/coach who told me that my son was okay because it happens all the time passed away a year later. 
American football is a violent sport, and the aim of the game is to stop the opponent from advancing at all costs… football is what people play in Europe and the rest of the world. This is bastardized rugby.


I played JV football and was hurt the first week (not actually playing football - I was running through a field and fell and smashed up my shoulder) and was out for the season. As the season went on, I realized that the injury was a very good thing. I saw how brutal it was and decided it wasn't for me. 


"Safer football helmets" is an oxymoron.  You can get a concussion without hitting your head against something, for example from whiplash.  The helmet does not prevent your brain from smashing into the inside of your skull.

Tackle football should not be played by kids, period. We can argue about what age is appropriate but at the very least it should be banned below high school.


Stop calling every head injury a concussion.  That leads to inaccuracies and misdiagnosis.  And safer football helmets are not a contradiction.  They have been developed and are constantly improving.  They aren't perfect, but I want our players to have them.


DanDietrich said:

Stop calling every head injury a concussion.  That leads to inaccuracies and misdiagnosis.  And safer football helmets are not a contradiction.  They have been developed and are constantly improving.  They aren't perfect, but I want our players to have them.

I didn't call every head injury a concussion. Sure, a helmet and facemask will prevent a broken nose or broken jaw or broken teeth.  But those things heal. Concussions can have life-altering effects. There is no such thing as a concussion-proof helmet. It does not exist. Sure, we should get the best helmets available but they don't guarantee no concussions.


It's not likely that football can ever be made "brain-friendly," but I wonder if over time it can evolve to be less dangerous. Most of the contact to the head appears to be in "the trenches" as the ball is snapped and guys in three point or four point stances crash into each other. If the rules mandated that players can't line up with a hand on the ground, it might eliminate most of the helmet to helmet contact among the linemen. Another rule could give a personal foul to any player on offense or defense who leads with the helmet into another player, or contacts an opponent in the head. No exceptions. That would likely make players much more careful about their own heads, as well as their opponents'.

contact with the ground will still cause head injuries. But a lot of what I've read suggests the cumulative effect of hundreds of sub-concussive hits to the head on average plays is what causes the worst long-term damage. If football could eliminate the routine blows to the head that players deliver and receive, maybe the game could be more like rugby or other contact sports that don't involve constant contact to the head.

because it's not likely this country will abandon football any time in the lifetimes of anyone currently living.


You would think the costs alone would sink a lot of football programs.  It is by far the most expensive sport for a school to offer - equipment, number of coaches, insurance (I'm guessing).

As an aside, once I started play NFL Fantasy Football, I became very aware of the damage inflicted on the players each week.  


JJ: Did trauma cause Jimmy Story’s death?

The incidence of fatal auto accidents plummet during the hours of Super Bowl televised broadcast.

did not mention the DEI considerations of Cougar football.


dickf3 said:

JJ: Did trauma cause Jimmy Story’s death?

The incidence of fatal auto accidents plummet during the hours of Super Bowl televised broadcast.

did not mention the DEI considerations of Cougar football.

Not trauma. Most likely, heat (it was first week of September) or maybe heart.

I would point out that the events I described, were over the period of four years and just one small school.

Jimmy's and the spleen episode are researchable in Millburn library's Millburn Item archives.


This idea intrigued me when I first read about it and the study.

Could Getting Rid Of Helmets Actually Make Football Safer? (ThinkProgress)

Swartz doesn’t think that removing helmets altogether is the answer right now — with the way the game is currently played, that would cause more injuries than it would prevent. But he also is wary of the focus on improving the design of helmets to improve safety, because those innovations often offer false hope. Swartz believes it’s behavior modification, not helmet technology, that will ultimately reduce the number of subconcussive hits players experience in games.

DaveSchmidt said:

This idea intrigued me when I first read about it and the study.

Could Getting Rid Of Helmets Actually Make Football Safer? (ThinkProgress)

Swartz doesn’t think that removing helmets altogether is the answer right now — with the way the game is currently played, that would cause more injuries than it would prevent. But he also is wary of the focus on improving the design of helmets to improve safety, because those innovations often offer false hope. Swartz believes it’s behavior modification, not helmet technology, that will ultimately reduce the number of subconcussive hits players experience in games.

My son went from playing baseball at CHS (his year did quite well grin) to playing Rugby at college. At first I freaked: "football without helmets" I thought but the rules at least for college rugby do prevent the serious injuries: no high tackles, no block and tackle, etc. So yes the article I read to appease myself indicated that there are more serious injuring in college football and soccer and lacrosse than rugby. Sprains, breaks happen but not as much the risk of brain injury, paralysis. (He wound up being captain by the way. grin _)


Parents need to parent and make the informed choice of letting their kid play.  Sure the rare kid will make it to the NFL and get rich, A few more will get college paid for.  But in NJ, if your family is low income, you can get free county college.  2 year schools are about 15K/year.  So we are talking about $35K for a 4 year degree with added expenses.  If the family needs the young adult to work, you take a lighter class load and take 6-8 years to graduate to make it work.  Sure there are better schools.  But I know someone that started in county college, went to a state school (not even rutgers) and is now a doctor.


big difference in injury risk with baseball, basketball, and golf v football.  Even soccer has a concerning risk with heading the ball.  If you damage your legs beyond repair, there are wheelchairs.  There is no wheelchair for the brain.  Brain Injuries have turned people violent (OJ Simpson likely)-innocent people lose their lives.  That doesn't happen with basketball players


I have heard the football, especially at the high school level has gotten much more aggressive...with players coached to hit harder


Average Weights/Heights of NFL Offensive Lineman over the Decades

1920's 6'0", 210 lbs

1930's 6'1" 220 lbs

1940's 6'1" 220 lbs

1950's 6'2" 235 lbs

1960's 6'3" 250 lbs

1970's 6'3" 255 lbs

1980's 6'4" 275 lbs

1990's 6'4" 300lbs

2000's 6'4" 315 lbs

2015 6'5" 315 lbs


ml1 said:

It's not likely that football can ever be made "brain-friendly," but I wonder if over time it can evolve to be less dangerous. Most of the contact to the head appears to be in "the trenches" as the ball is snapped and guys in three point or four point stances crash into each other. If the rules mandated that players can't line up with a hand on the ground, it might eliminate most of the helmet to helmet contact among the linemen. Another rule could give a personal foul to any player on offense or defense who leads with the helmet into another player, or contacts an opponent in the head. No exceptions. That would likely make players much more careful about their own heads, as well as their opponents'.

contact with the ground will still cause head injuries. But a lot of what I've read suggests the cumulative effect of hundreds of sub-concussive hits to the head on average plays is what causes the worst long-term damage. If football could eliminate the routine blows to the head that players deliver and receive, maybe the game could be more like rugby or other contact sports that don't involve constant contact to the head.

because it's not likely this country will abandon football any time in the lifetimes of anyone currently living.

Even the NFL knows there is an alternative....

https://nflflag.com/



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