By: Chris Zimmer – Columnist, Junior
As we rolled into October, the football headlines focused on the Federal Communication Commission’s repeal of the “blackout rule,” the Bengals were number two on the ESPN Power Rankings and commentary questioned whether Tom Brady’s playing days are over in New England.
While millions of people across the nation were paying attention to these, one story didn’t come into the spotlight – three high school football players who passed away in the same week due to injuries they sustained on the field.
Demario Harris Jr., 17, died in Troy, Alabama on Sunday, Sept. 28, after suffering a brain aneurysm in his last game.
Isaiah Langston, 17, who experienced a blood clot in his brain during warm-ups in his last game, died in Raleigh, North Carolina on Monday, Sept. 29.
Tom Cutilnella, 16, of Long Island, New York, died on Wednesday, Oct. 1, after suffering a big hit to the head.
According to the University of North Carolina’s National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research, roughly 1.2 million high school students play high school football every year, and the American Journal of Sports Medicine estimates more than 12 high school football players have died every year since 1931.
The most recent year a student-athlete hasn’t died on the gridiron came in 1990.
The reason why these kids, their families and their communities didn’t make the headlines is because they were seen as just another statistic.
The National Football League and American football culture are dodging a major bullet.
Nearly 20,000 retired professional football players are covered by a $5 million settlement if they develop severe neurological conditions, but what about everyone else?
The NFL contributed $45 million to USA Football’s “Heads Up Football” initiative to educate coaches on proper tackling techniques, and promote concussion awareness.
But at the end of the day, sometimes the shoulder pad misses the thigh pad, and heavy collisions can injure the head, neck or spine, and every other body part.
It’s the nature of the game. However, parents are frightened, and aren’t letting their kids play football as they realize how vulnerable the youth’s brain is to a concussion.
According to the NFL Players union, the Pop Warner youth football organization produces 60 to 70 percent of all current league players, yet fewer and fewer kids are playing.
ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” highlighted the loss of 23,712 pee wee athletes from 2010-2012, and is expected to keep dropping.
I believe the game of football has received the raw end of the blame.
Head collisions can occur in soccer, basketball, wrestling, skateboarding, and biking (just to name a few).
The ways a child could get hurt are limitless.
However there is no doubt if the media stops glamorizing big hits on national television, and less and less families are involved with the game, football will be viewed like the Gladiators of ancient Rome – a violent competition of the past.
Unless the rules are rewritten soon to prevent traumatic injuries, the sport could someday vanish.