400,000 High School Football Players Got Concussions This Year: What Exactly Is The Point?

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 25:  NFL Commissione...
NFL Commissiomer Roger Goodell;Image by Getty Images via Daylife

There is a photo in today’s New York Times sports section that breaks my heart — former player Brent Boyd, who suffers headaches, squeezing his face between his huge palms. (The photo on the Times’ website is so tightly cropped it only shows an impassive Goodell. Boyd’s huge shoulders don’t make it into the frame.)

The story details why it matters so much that the N.F.L. reconsider how badly it’s willing to injure its players – because a whole new generation of younger athletes, and their coaches, are modeling their behavior accordingly. Coaches routinely tell an injured athlete to “walk it off” and most teams have no ready access to a physician to know when a player needs to get off the field now.

“More than 1.2 million teenagers play high school football every fall, and hundreds are seriously injured by concussions and other brain trauma…About 400,000 concussions occurred in high school athletics during the 2008-9 school year — more in football than in any other sport” says the Times.

Have you or someone you know or love ever suffered a concussion? It’s scary shit. Two summers ago, my sweetie took a fall while riding his bike, falling hard — even wearing a bike helmet and not going that fast — onto the sidewalk. He was able to ride up to meet me, his shorts torn and a weird look on his face. “What day is it?” I asked him.  Right answer, immediately. “What’s your name?” Ditto. Count my fingers. Right.

“What did you make for breakfast an hour ago?” He shook his head. Off we raced to the local hospital. I sat up with him most of that night, as doctors told us to make sure there were no side effects or changes in his behavior or physical condition. It was terrifying and he has not ridden a bike since. I know he will, at some point. But he’s an adult, under no social or financial pressure to throw his body into situations that can, and likely will, hurt him physically, both now and decades from now.

Surely no sport — no ghetto-fleeing, life-changing college scholarship — is worth this cost. Is it?

6 thoughts on “400,000 High School Football Players Got Concussions This Year: What Exactly Is The Point?

  1. libtree09

    I understand your point…Brett Favre, the quarterback was sacked in a game and had to be helped off the field…five minutes later he came in, the rush came after him, he dodged, threw a fantastic pass on the run that won the game in the last minutes.

    To this day he has no memory of doing it.

    He shouldn’t have gone back out but my answer to your question is yes, it is worth the risk. Life is risk, one just has to be aware of the risks and act accordingly. The odds are in our favor if we understand what could go wrong and avoid the stupid like letting a coach keep you from getting a drink of water.

    I once tried mountain climbing and was quite good at it, a natural climber I was told, did two training climbs and quit because the fear hampered my ability. I knew this fear would cause mistakes. But I rode dirt bikes, played baseball and football and skied, body surfed and learned martial arts and suffered concussions in all cases and busted up my leg severely and have been knocked out cold in fights but not to have participated would have resulted in a lackluster life. I once took myself out of a football game because I was too dizzy to get back to the huddle and didn’t give a damn what the coach said…I was hurt and knew it to play dizzy was dangerous…but hey new helmets are on the way…coaches know they may find themselves in court for pushing too hard…so life goes on. We now know that we need to get to a hospital if we get hit hard enough but life offers lots of opportunities for getting whacked we can’t avoid life. If your friend likes biking he should bike, if he thinks he physically can’t handle it anymore or there is no safe place to ride he should stop. Oh…he may need a better helmet too.

  2. Caitlin Kelly

    Thanks, libtree…lots here to think about…I agree totally that a risk-free life is a waste of time and talent; I’ve had 3 orthopedic surgeries, 2 of them the result of blowing out my knees after decades of sports, so I get it!

    Here’s the thing I really have an issue with: how many kids, really, have the ability/guts to stand up to their coach (be the wimp, whatever) and get out of a game? Without a team doctor or a wise/attentive/cautious coach, what kid, even teen, can even recognize when they really need to go to the hospital? What about the very real, severe peer and coach pressure to suck it up?

    1. libtree09

      You are right but I think things are changing rather quickly…there have been rule changes in high school football about tackling and hitting with a helmet, it is nearly impossible to detect concussions on the field unless the guy is flat out unconscious but the test you applied should be mandatory for any coach and anyone down without an injury that can be seen should be taken off the field for a conversation. I’m all for sucking it up…pushing the physical barrier and playing hurt with bruises but their are limits when it comes to the head. And maybe like amateur fights there should always be a doctor present.

      I too can no longer run, the spring in my step removed surgically, both knees. On my way to robot knees. Football is aware of concussions, they should look a knees as well. Ever see a picture of Namath’s knees? Color in the lines and you have a Pollock painting. Or try to watch Ditka walk without feeling the pain?

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