By Carol Lloyd,
What if your child’s school explained that in addition to offering classes on a wide range of academic topics designed to support your child’s intellectual development, they also promoted an enrichment activity which involved, among other things, banging your child’s head against a wall? Would you turn tail and run the other direction?
Yet every year many kids experience this bizarre coupling of brain boosting and brain bashing at high schools across the country in the form of football.
Yeah, yeah. I’m a freak to draw such stark analogies. But it’s also worth noting a few salient facts: Every high school football season, an estimated 43,000 to 67,000 players endure a concussion. Maybe they jump up and keep playing. But if pro football is any indication, some of those concussions that kids bounce back from leave lasting damage, leading to early dementia and lowered IQ. In one study of concussions among high school football players, brain scans found that nearly 20% of its participants had concussions that had gone undiagnosed.
Sometimes when kids are hit, they don’t bounce back. Each year dozens of high school football players suffer severe injuries, such as permanent paralysis, cervical cord injury, or cerebral injury.
Sometimes they don’t get up at all. Every year a handful of high school students die as a direct result of football -- with many others whose deaths are deemed “indirect fatalities.”
Two weeks ago it happened to 16-year-old Ridge Barden. He died after being hit on the head during a varsity game. News reports said Ridge’s death is igniting new scrutiny about whether helmets are really protecting players’ heads. But how many kids have to get hurt (or worse) before it ignites scrutiny of the game itself? Apparently, the answer is more.
"It just one of those freak things," Phoenix School District Superintendent Judy Belfield told Associated Press.
Well, freaky, yes. But unavoidable? Probably not.