Sports Perspective: Football dangers demand reform - The Explorer: Sports

Sports Perspective: Football dangers demand reform

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Evan Hofmann

Posted: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 4:00 am

Thunderous helmet-to-helmet contact sent 16-year-old Damon Janes to the sidelines during the third quarter of a high school football game on Sept. 13. Within moments the teenager had lost consciousness and was rushed to a Buffalo hospital where he was pronounced dead three days later.  Just weeks prior, 16 year-old DeAntre Turman suffered a spinal injury in a high school football scrimmage in Atlanta. The football stand out succumbed to his injuries shortly thereafter. It is in these most tragic of moments, moments where we lose our members of our promising youth, that we are forced to acknowledge the harsh realities of our habits. 

It is an ugly fact of the game that football demands much of its players, sometimes going as far as to require the ultimate sacrifice. Though the sport has always been widely acknowledged as one rich in brutality, it is only recently that the violent nature has been brought so far to the forefront.  This is because the medical world is still uncovering information about the long term damage of concussive, and sub-concussive blows to the head. Gone are the days of the 1990’s, when the football players laughed at the thought of having their “bell rung”, seeing stars, guessing how many fingers their trainer was holding up, or what day of the week it was after each heavy hit. We can no longer make light of a situation that is not laughable in any capacity.  Recent patterns seem to indicate that frequent blows to the head, such as those experienced in football, are linked to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), and Parkinson’s disease. These diseases carry a slew of symptoms that range from neurological degeneration to self-endangerment and suicidal thoughts. 

The NFL recently made rule changes to penalize helmet-to-helmet hits, and yielded $765 million to a lengthy list of retired players in a class action lawsuit in hopes of remedying years of cranial abuse, but what is to be done for incoming athletes? How can the entire football body collaborate to provide a safer environment for today’s peewee players who are just beginning their lifelong journey of tackles, blocks, and hits? As of now, the most effective way of protecting young athletes is to teach them the fundamentals of safety. Instructing young students of the game on the importance of tackling without using their heads will in turn provide a foundation for the future high school, college, and professional football players of tomorrow.

The Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) has led the charge for children’s safety in football. High school teams across the state are forbidden from practicing full contact with pads for the first two-thirds of practices during the season. The AIA hopes that the limited contact in practices will help to minimize the physical punishment and cranial shock accumulated by young athletes. In addition, many of these schools are reserving ample time to educate their players on tackle safety. 

Though football will never be without physical risks, recent medical discoveries have demanded positive action such as that employed by the AIA. A retrospective view of the past 10 years of high school football reveals a sobering 25 deaths, 71 cervical injuries, and 78 cases of irreversible brain damage.  Frankly, this is not acceptable. We have been blissfully tuning in to a battle with a beast that we do not truly understand, that of head trauma. But the immediate damages of our children, as well as the amassed damages of retired professionals, can no longer be ignored. The time has come for the sport of football, and its fans, to evolve.

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Boys Golf (@ 3 p.m.)

Buena, Cienega at Marana

Mountain View, Ironwood Ridge, Catalina at Amphi (Silverbell GC)

Catalina Foothills, Pueblo, Sahuarita at Sahuaro

Girls Volleyball (Fr 4 p.m., JV 5 p.m., Var 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted)

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Ironwood Ridge, Desert View at Flowing Wells (Silverbell)

Cross Country (@4:30)

Salpointe at Catalina Foothills

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Sahuarita, Pueblo, Pusch Ridge at Desert View

Girls Volleyball (Fr 4 p.m., JV 5 p.m., Var 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted)

Empire at Marana (4:30, 5:30, 6:30)

CDO at Queen Creek

Cienega at Mountain View

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Thursday, September 18

Girls Golf

CDO, Ironwood Ridge at Phoenix Aguila Invitational (all day)

Boys Golf

Sahuaro and Salpointe at Ironwood Ridge

CDO, Rincon, Sunnyside at Tucson High

Girls Volleyball (Fr 4 p.m., JV 5 p.m., Var 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted)

Marana at Sahuarita

Ironwood Ridge at Sahuaro (4:30, 5:30, 6:30)

Catalina Foothills at Rincon

Pusch Ridge at San Manuel

Swimming (4 p.m.)

Marana vs. Tucson at Quincy Douglas Pool

Cienega at Marana

CDO, Ironwood Ridge at Amphi

Catalina Foothills at Sahuaro

Freshman Football (all games at 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted)

Flowing Wells at Marana (4 p.m.)

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Cienega at CDO

Ironwood Ridge at Buena

Catalina Foothills at Sahuarita

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Amphi at Marana

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Buena at Ironwood Ridge

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Friday, September 19

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Catalina Foothills, Ironwood Ridge, CDO, at Phoenix Aguila Invitational (all day)

Cross Country

Mountain View, Ironwood Ridge at Mt. Carmel Invitational (San Diego, CA)

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Football (@7 p.m.)

Pusch Ridge at Santa Cruz Valley

Catalina at Marana

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Catalina Foothills, CDO at Ojo Rojo (Chandler, AZ)

Swimming

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