November 27, 2013
One of the very few enjoyable aspects of waiting in an airport is the guiltless time it allows me to visit its bookstores and page slowly through some of the old classics I vaguely remember and the new releases I can’t wait to read.
Two months ago in one of the terminals of Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, my attention went quickly to a prominent display of books about football. Five titles were mostly critical of the game, focusing on the sport at the major college and professional levels. Down at the bottom of the display was one title that addressed the positive value of football to students, schools and communities.
One month ago, while I was eating breakfast, the television news reported on the results of new research about youth concussions. While the narration mentioned multiple sports, the video was mostly of football. I saw that story repeated on another television channel that evening. I wondered, how many times on how many channels did how many people get this gift of the latest youth concussion statistics for all sports presented in football-only wrapping paper?
The public is getting mixed messages about school-sponsored football. The problem of college and professional football is not the problem of school-sponsored football. And what problems of head trauma that do exist in school sports are not exclusively problems of football.
In fact, school-sponsored football has never been freer of serious injury than it is today – that’s true whether we are talking about heads, necks, knees or nicks. It’s the result of the most careful and cautious rules making, coaching and officiating ever. And it’s safer – not less so – as we ever more quickly assess and refer injuries to ever more educated and capable health care professionals.