Concussions hot topic for children and football
If you had a son, would you want him to pursue a pro football career?
Or even play varsity football on a high school or college level?
These autumn, pigskin-weather days the above is a question that commands an answer because the words “football” and “concussion” are now linked like Siamese Twins.
Concussion has, in fact, become one of the dirtiest words in the National Football League dictionary. And the NCAA’s as well. I kid you not. In recent months more than a dozen concussionrelated law suits were filed and that has the National Football Foundation (NFF) searching hard for aspirins. The NFF is suffering migraine headaches because one of its goals has been to assure parents that football is safe.
Football, as played today, is safe, all right — before the opening kick-off, at halftime and after the final buzzer. Otherwise it’s as brutal as ducking the bulls at Pamplona.
You don’t have to believe me; all you have to do is ask parents of first-rate athletes who have spurned pigskin play for their kids because they don’t want their offspring to emerge with pig brains. Or no brains at all. Just to be sure about parental sentiment visa-vis football I corralled by buddy, Glenn Petraitis, who happens to be the father of a pair young men who easily could pass for gridders.
The older one, Glenn (Junior), is a 19-year-old pitcher for Messiah College in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. whose physique is more formidable than those of a few Jets or Giants you may know.
The younger one, A.J., 13, is no slouch, himself; sort of a reasonable facsimile of his older brother, only he’s a catcher-first baseman-third baseman for his local baseball team.
Each expressed an interest in playing football and Pop Petraitis, delivered the deathless two words, ABSOLUTELY NOT.
“I didn’t want this to happen to them,” said he senior Glenn, pointing to his head. “There was no bargaining on this issue.”
Nor is there with other parents when I mentioned the possibility of their athletic sons pursuing football as a pastime or a career.
Another of my pals — Chris Reilly, a television stage manager, author and student of head injuries — recalls when his local high school football coach approached his mother about husky Chris coming out of the football team.
“My Mom gave him an emphatic ‘NO’ that nearly blew him across the street,” says Reilly who wound up playing hockey at Providence College.
It’s all about the brutal nature of NFL games where tackling, pileup after pile-up and assorted mayhem involving 300-plus-poun brutes is commonplace.
Nor does the NFF have a reasonable solution. But that explains why Tom Sullivan, a one time UCLA football captain, is suing the NCAA and the Pac-12 over concussions.
“The case,” asserts columnist Evan Weiner who writes on The Politics of Sports Business, “seeks to include every UCLA player from 1959 to 2010.
“The multiple filings appeared to be a coordinated effort as the plaintiffs used similar language to Sullivan’s case.”
This does not mean you should boycott pro nor collegiate football or anything of the kind. Nobody is forcing Tom Brady to get on the field any Sunday, Monday or Always. Pro football is an exciting tv watch as ratings have proven.
It’s Brady’s choice as it is for any one of our Catskill Area athletes who happen to love the punt and tackle pastime more than soccer, baseball or baskets.
But the NFL knows the concussion epidemic is scary. NFF official Steve Hatchell once warned that football was under siege because of constant coverage of the concussion issue.
The bottom line is as simple as this: concussions suffered in games can cause permanent brain damage.
“And that,” Petraitis concludes, “is why I won’t let my kids get into football!”
Would you if you were in Glenn’s shoes?
Author-columnistcommentator Stan “The Maven” Fischler resides in Boiceville and New York City. His column appears each week in the Sunday Freeman.