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Thread: Your thoughts on football, your children, concussions and safety

  1. #1
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    Question Your thoughts on football, your children, concussions and safety

    Julie Suratt wrote this article published in the current Boston Magazine: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/a...play-football/

    I discount the possibility that people in Wayland are unwilling to let this discussion occur.

    What do you think? Should the schools eliminate football (and/or other sports), provide parents with more information on the risks, or do nothing different/additional?

    For completeness, here are a few other resources:
    (1) Wen Stephenson's letter to the Crier: http://wayland.wickedlocal.com/artic...News/141006483
    (2) School Committee meeting minutes regarding football safety http://www.wayland.k12.ma.us/UserFil...4_9_22_min.pdf
    (3) WayCAM coverage of the School Committee meeting (starts about 8 minutes in): http://waycamtv.pegcentral.com/playe...ba8922826d8378
    (4) Town Crier coverage of the 10/20 meeting: http://wayland.wickedlocal.com/artic...News/141028090

    Other School Committee minutes touching on the topic:

  2. #2
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    It would be interesting to know how many school boards have even discussed the idea of eliminating football. Contrary to Ms. Suratt's contention in an otherwise excellent article, Wayland may well be something of a leader on this topic (the bar for that particular title may well be fairly low).

    For my part, I'm not currently comfortable with eliminating football (or other concussion-prone sports) outright. With more information, that might change.

    That said, unless there are strong legal reasons why a district can't both offer a program and issue cautions about that program, I would definitely support much stronger parent education.

    As a society, we allow many dangerous activities, from drinking to driving (but not both!) to smoking to sugar to many more. Outright bans tend not to work (eliminating football at the interscholastic level might simply lead to club-level football where there's even less education). I'd much rather do what we can to make people informed.

  3. #3
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    Default A worthy topic for further discussion!

    This is an interesting debate. I have to say up front that I really don't know much about the medicine behind concussions and other head-related injuries, so my opinions are just that - opinions.

    There has always been a line between what the government should be regulating (smoking, seat-belt usage, extra large sugar based soft drinks, pot smoking, ...) and what should be left to the individual to choose to participate in. A lot of the debate is covered in the democrat vs. republican split.

    The problem in this particular case is that there's really no "safe" way to hit your head. You can wear a helmet all you want, but the forces that are imparted to your brain are excessive and dangerous, particularly for younger folks whose brains are still developing. I don't know if you've ever seen a slo-mo video of what happens inside your head when you smack it into a hard object, but it kind of reminds me of a bowl of gelatin sloshing back and forth. Each impact the soft brain tissue makes on the skull causes compression and associated damage to it, and the wavelength and frequency of the sloshing can leave behind devastating results. You must consider that this is a game where "taking out" your opponent is the objective.

    There's a rather lengthy video on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UT__BsZlHSc) that discusses this in the context of the NFL, but a lot of the points made can easily be transferred to high school kids. It does remind me a bit of the tobacco industry saying for years how there is no association between smoking and cancer until the science caught up and proved the connection. As for me - I would be happy to see these brutal contact sports eliminated and substituted with other games where contact is not the main objective (i.e.: basketball, tennis, curling, cricket, bowling, racquetball, squash, ping-pong, swimming, ...). Are these sports risk and injury free? Of course not. You can hurt yourself taking a walk in the neighborhood. The point is, the goal and objective of these sports does not include smashing the opposing team into the floor. Hockey, rugby and yes, even soccer would have to go in the same bucket as football (although soccer is fine if you eliminate the head shots).

    Opposing and aligned views are welcome.

    Carl

  4. #4
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    Carl, Jeff and Julie,

    I'm highly ambivalent on this topic.

    On the one hand, I am all for freedom to choose and make your own mistakes (though, as Carl notes, we do prohibit many things we know to be dangerous outright, so where to draw the line is highly subjective and cultural). On the other hand, there is plenty of scientific evidence about the dangers and these are young people who may suffer severe and long-term consequences. And on the other hand (hey, Tevye got more than two hands to argue in Fiddler...) who am I to call playing football "a mistake"? There are benefits to any sport (as Wen Stephenson pointed out in his article). On the other hand, these benefits can certainly be achieved through other, less dangerous, sports.

    What we allow, what we disallow, what we encourage, what we discourage - it's (back to Tevye here) largely a matter of tradition, isn't it? We don't have boxing in high school, but what if we did? Would we be OK with eliminating it if we already had it?

  5. #5
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    Default Concussion risks for adolescents: research studies attached

    Concussion Risks are Significant for Adolescents

    Our son suffered a major concussion during a pick-up game of basketball at WHS. When my wife took him to the ED at a local hospital, the physician looked him over and said, "My advice is to get back on the horse in cases like these. Kids recover quickly."

    We followed that physician's advice -- which turned out to be a big mistake. Research over the past 20 years has shown that the adolescent brain is particularly sensitive to head trauma, not "quick to recover." Concussion can also exacerbate existing challenges, e.g. anxiety, depression, mood disorders, ADHD, learning disabilities etc. In other words, the problems that many high school students face can spin out of control following a concussion.

    Attached are copies of recent research, including a very interesting study with a large group of students involved in sports in Connecticut. The bottom line: concussion in adolescents needs to be treated seriously. The impacts can be severe and long term. Parents, teachers and coaches should read the advice on 'cocooning' with no exposure to TV / video games / computers after a concussion, and exemption from homework and tests.

    I hope this is helpful. Let me know if you have any questions.

    Mark Hays
    Last edited by Kim Reichelt; 05-06-2015 at 11:55 AM. Reason: to normalize fonts v. rest of posts

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    Mark, if you had written, "I suffered a major concussion during a pick-up game of basketball at WHS when I went there in the early 1980s," I wouldn't have been surprised by the ED physician's response. In this day and age, though, I'm baffled by the incompetence.

    A few years back, one of my sons suffered a concussion while wrestling. It was diagnosed instantly (that is, while he was still on the mat). The meet was immediately over for him. The WHS trainer went through all of the protocols, with the result that screens/reading were off limits and school/homework/tests were waived until he was cleared a week or two later.

    As this was the week of mid-terms, let's just say that he wasn't overly bothered by the result, but it didn't take long for him to get bored out of his mind (please excuse the possibly poor choice of words). Basically, his time came down to listening to audiobooks, eating, and sleeping.

  7. #7
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    New research on long-term impacts of playing football at an early page was just published. From today's Boston Globe:
    Brain risk seen in early-age football

    There are certainly limitations of the study - while they acknowledge the specific subset of people studied and small sample size, other factors that might differentiate today's young players with yesterday's is better knowledge about (and response to) concussions, as well as rules changes aimed at limiting concussions. Still, I think if my young athlete were considering taking up football today, this would be another reason to take pause.


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