Your humble blogger thinks it’s time for a … what do you call it … a paradigm shift in the concussion debate.
As a nation, we’re starting to get our arms around traumatic brain injury, and we have reached a glorious consensus: it’s bad. And damn, we’re going to do whatever it takes to stamp it out. Hit counts. Helmet technology. Computer tests to determine if you remember that Hannibal Hamlin was the 15th vice president of the United States even after you get clocked. An athletic trainer in every pot, and a Medivac helicopter on call for every game, every practice. Plus, Centers for Disease Control brochures edited by Roger Goodell.Whatever it takes.
Of course, we’ll still have deaths, catastrophic injuries, and long-term mental damage for a significant swath of our male population. But we’ll sure feel better about it.
Uh … what’s it all going to cost?
Correction: What’s it going to cost before the avalanche of litigation against football at the amateur levels (forget about the much-hyped NFL retirees’ lawsuits), let loose by “concussion awareness”?
That’s one aspect of the next turn of this conversation, I believe. Another aspect has nothing to do with concussions at all; it’s just about the insatiable expansion of the sports industry, at the expense of every single other activity a kid could be doing, 12 months of the year, driven only by social pressure, not by physique, talent, motivation, or true choice.
Back in February, my friend Matt Chaney – who is younger than me but who I sometimes think has been slogging at this and related subjects since I was knee-high to a goalpost – published his “219 Football Casualties Severe to Fatal in America 2011.” See http://blog.4wallspublishing.com/2012/02/12/220-football-casualties-severe-to-fatal-in-america-2011.aspx.
Well, this week heatstroke in football practices is in the news, and for good reason – it’s hot. Fancy that, temperatures threatening the Fahrenheit three figures in the first week of August! The venerable Brooke de Lench’s momsTEAM.com is on the case. (My plug is partial thanks for her having the moxie to publish my long article last week on sex abuse in swimming.) And so, of course, is Chaney. It turns out that his dirty 219 from last year included eight football-heat incidents. Is anyone listening?
From where I sit, the only people listening seem to be those figuring out how they can turn a buck from it. But there are other, larger themes flowing from these atomized topics. They involve priorities, proportion, common sense – when too much becomes enough, when the overweening authority of the coaching priesthood needs to be on the receiving end of a good clean cross-body block.
These are the stories I will continue to pursue – whether the platform is pro wrestling, the concussion crisis, Penn State, or the systemic rapes of girl swimmers. Please stay along for the ride.