Once again as summer gives way to fall, our annual rite of football season is upon us. The National Football League has already had its Hall of Fame game with a full slate of preseason games coming up this weekend.
College football teams are working diligently twice a day to improve on last year's records. High School teams are preparing in some parts of the country, and others are getting ready to start practice either next week or the following.
Young boys and girls as young as six and seven years old are dragging mom and/or dad to the local sports shop to buy equipment for their rapidly growing bodies. I have a real problem with that!
Parents all over the country believe they need to start Little Johnny or Janie in these athletic programs at earlier and earlier ages all the time. I do not believe these programs should start until these young bodies are a little more developed. I have had that feeling for many years and now with all of the injury studies being done with older college and professional athletes we are seeing the damage all of the hitting is taking on people's bodies as they age.
The concussion epidemic we are seeing now should have been made years ago. There is too much money in all levels of not only football, but all the other sports as well. I do not believe these young boys and girls need to start at such a young age when their bodies are growing so rapidly and changing literally day-to-day.
For my Prevention and Care of Athletic Injuries class at the University of Minnesota in the late 70s, I did a paper on severe neck injuries in football. I will never forget some of the research I did mostly in a magazine published right here in the Twin Cities called The Physician & Sports Medicine Journal. Remind you, this paper was done almost forty years ago.
Before I start to talk about some of the numbers, let me tell you about the professor and my grade. She handed back my paper with not one red mark on it! Out of a 20-point possible score, she gave me a 19.7! Her note read, "This paper is perfect. You did an excellent job in your research. I wouldn't change a thing."
Mind you, I was only twenty-two or twenty-three and I took exception to her comment and not giving me a perfect 20 if my paper deserved it. After class, I went up and after why I did not get 20 if she would not change a word of my paper?
Her reply was, "I don't believe in perfection."
I asked, "Then why did you write on my paper, "It is perfect. …"?
Then a discussion ensued, and of course I did not get my grade changed because the professor was right (in her own mind) and she was not about to change my grade. That still bothers me to this day! Can you tell?
One of the most glaring statistics that came out of that paper was 70% of all high school players would get hurt in a year, 90% of all college players would get hurt and 100% of all professional football players would get hurt in the upcoming season. Their definition of getting hurt consisted of missing one or more plays due to injury in a game.
I am not sure if that is a very good parameter for considering an injury in a football game. But, who am I to question the scientists? Remember, those were numbers from the 1970s and included all injuries.
I hope today's equipment, rules and coaching techniques have changed dramatically to protect the athletes, especially the younger ones.
One of the problems I see with older athletes is the sheer size and strength they possess. The recent NFL lawsuit is showing some staggering statistics on the toll these repetitive hits are doing to players from head to toe. Is the state-of-the-art of football equipment adequate to protect these larger, stronger and faster players?
That goes right down to the younger players. Another fact I learned from researching my paper was — the neck musculature is the last muscle mass in the body to develop. No wonder I got hurt! I only had a small neck to protect my extremely large head! (I know that will bring some snickers to some of my readers). Here is my individual photograph from a couple weeks before my accident:
Click on the image to make my head even larger:
I am not trying to make this a negative post. I love football! I love watching football; I just do not like watching all the injuries. It physically sickens me when I watch a player who has to be strapped onto a body board and carried off the field. I loved playing football! I regret one play, that is it! I learned a lot from all the competitive sports I competed in as an adolescent. I made lifelong friends I still see today, both teammates and players I competed against. I would not be where I am today if it were not for all of the competition and cooperation I learned in competitive and cooperative team sports.
I like to tell people, "I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for football, but if it wasn't for football, I wouldn't be here." What I mean by that is if it were not for football I would not have gotten hurt. However, if it was not for football, basketball, baseball, track, tennis and golf, I would not have learned to compete. I compete today not against another team; but rather, against myself.
One of my goals is to make myself better every day. I try to learn at least one new thing every day. Imagine what you could do in a lifetime if you did that! If you are in school they would like you to learn more than one new thing a day! But, if you are an adult think how much you will learn in your lifetime if you are learning one new thing every day. It can be powerful stuff! It is all about your attitude!
As always, I welcome your comments.