Con­cus­sions hot topic for chil­dren and foot­ball

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - Stan Fischler MSG Net­work Hockey An­a­lyst

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.

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