After Football Player’s Death, California School Team Wavers, but Carries On

At Arlington High School in Riverside, players and coaches felt the loss of a popular player, who died just days after collapsing from a head injury, as they persevered through an up-and-down season.

Comments: 85

  1. As one of the first teachers who helped to open Arlington High School and having not only taught there for 26 years but coached track for 15. We always taught our students on thing: Lion Pride. A lion pride is a family of lions. Arlington H.S. ALWAYS has Lion Pride. It is the chant at basketball games, track meets, baseball games and everything else of value. Lion Pride. That's what the school is all about. Always has been. Always will be.
    My love goes out to the school, to the coaches and to the most important part of the school, the students.

  2. And so? what does "Lion Pride" have to do with this story? Perhaps if someone had taught safety, the students would have been better off.

  3. @ mark
    when new males take over the Pride they kill the young lions.

    perhaps that is the point

  4. Typical of the mindless propaganda fostered by schools in their attempt to compete on the "playing" field (and the key word here is "play"). Can anyone imagine MIT or Cal Tech students chanting such inane drivel in a science competition?

  5. An elegant and beautiful story about why people play this game.

  6. Wrong! You are romanticizing a sport that offers very little to even the best athletes. Look no further than Tony Dorsett and Earl Campbell. You, like so many people, are looking at the movie version of this story. There is not a thing that is either "elegant" or "beautiful" about any of it. There is a two-thousand pound elephant in the room, that you are ignoring.

  7. judge- speak for yourself...while i agree serious questions about football's dangers exist, i heartily disagree with your statement that football "offers very little to the best athletes". Ask these athletes why they play. Most love playing football. Have you ever played football at a serious level, or any other team sport, for that matter? if you havent, you do not understand the positives involved, and the difficulties giving it up..

  8. How many more deaths before they finally change the rules? The parents of the boys who die this way should be agitating for change. And what about the professionals who commit suicide or get Alzheimers young?

    The sport as it is currently played is dangerous.

    When will enough pressure be put on those who define the rules? If it were my son who died or got early Alzheimers or showed signs of serious injuries, I wouldn't stop till thw rules were changed.

    What does it take?

  9. “A few of us football moms were talking and we asked, ‘How do you tell them not to do something they love?’ ”

    Something like this: "I'm not signing the parental consent form."

  10. All the adults seem to need knee replacement surgery from playing football.

  11. Ban football, boxing, and guns.

  12. Boxing is rarely a high school sport, but here is an example. The web page insists that the "only health concern has been the occasional bloody nose." There is no mention of brain injury or concussion.

    Franklin Boxing Team

  13. Kevin, you want to extend that to corporate profits, racism, homophobia, and Wal-Mart? Hoo boy.

  14. There needs to be some discussion on banning football in this country. Football is dangerous; all those hits to the head lead to early dementia like illness. The sport is glorified and glamourized. And stop calling football players warriors. There are much safer and healthier alternatives out there.

  15. "Heading" the ball in soccer also causes concussions; maybe more than big hits in football. So...

  16. “I will love whatever my kids love,” Lori Fedoruk said, expressing a prevailing sentiment among parents. “A few of us football moms were talking and we asked, ‘How do you tell them not to do something they love?’"

    You tell them with love and without flinching. Drug addicts love doing drugs. Would parents sign a form authorizing their son or daughter to do drugs? How is football any different? Even if deaths on the field are rare, how can parents think it's somehow ok to allow their child to damage his body, from brain to knee, day in and day out? Don't they care about the long-term consequences? Isn't it time for parents to say no?

  17. Drugs addicts and football players are not the same thing. I'd say it's much different. Do you / would you allow your children to drive? The comparison is not relevant.

  18. To your last question, "absolutely yes." Parents must say "no" or the carnage from this game will continue.

  19. I think the article poignantly captures the larger sense of loss the kids have to confront. Having lost a friend, they've also lost the game, or the innocent joy of play. They know that the game can kill them as easily as it did their teammate, and that they've been placed in a dangerous position by the adults they grew up idolizing and trusting. They might rationalize it by saying their mothers and fathers were too soft-hearted to stop them from playing. But at some level, they've got to be asking themselves why their parents didn't love them enough to protect them; why they were exposed to serious harm? After all, nobody is born loving football.

    The article makes the point that the camaraderie of the team and of the community is what really counts, but that one cannot extract that sense of well-being from football. After football, what will bind the community together? They seem to have nothing else, or nothing comparably effective--and the implication is, we as a society face a similar crisis. Unless we bury our heads in the sand and pretend everything is really A-OK, we will have to admit the truth about football--that it destroys the lives of a good number of the boys and men whom it touches; if it doesn't kill them outright, it cripples them, or it destroys their humanity by degrading the hardware of the mind, the human brain. An adult might say, knowing the risks, I choose to exercise my freedom to play; but how can we justify imposing the risks on innocent kids?

  20. I've never really liked football, but this is a moving story. My mother and a good friend of mine both died this year, so I know how hard it is. When someone young dies it makes it even tougher.

    I wonder too how the person who made the tackle is doing.

  21. It was a cruel twist of fate to make these kids play a postseason game. Never have 61 players been more relieved to have a season end.

  22. I think the teams spirit and support are to be commended. I also think that the changes over the last few decades require some serious rule changes and a lot fewer hard hits. I'm saying this from the reference of one who never saw a serious injury back in my school and college days. Never heard of one when my kids were active, although we supported the sport,

    I convinced mine to avoid football for the very same reasons ... such as the 205 pounder full force taking out an opponent.

    We've seen too many young men die and sustain serious injury due to how the game has been played. It is far more violent. In part due to the beefing up the equipment and also the importance it often plays in funding for the Athletic Dept.

    Sports are great for character building and just plain fun, but playing well need not put lives at risk for the sake of a point or the needs of the Athletic depts. record and reputation. Rules are needed which will avoid 'hitting' as hard as they've been up to. It's just a game and not a war.

    Everyone wins when no one is hurt and they've played fairly. We all lose when a family loses a child or a child is injured. There has to be a time for change. Hopefully a lesson will be learned at that school and others. Coaching must be about execution of strategy and plays, not downing or 'taking out' key players.

  23. I understand contact sports have become a popular punching bag at the New York Times. But could we please get some comparative statistics? Your teenager is far, far more likely to kill himself/herself in a car wreck than on the football field as the driver, they are even more likely to kill someone else because of their driving or die as a passenger in a car.

    There are lots of dangers in this world parents do a terrible job of protecting their children from, and this is because most people are generally terrible at understanding the risks involved, or rationalize it away. But as teenage endeavors go, football may be one of the safest your child could engage in.

    And please, author, don't randomly attribute knee replacements in one's 50s to football. There are many other health issues, including rampant obesity, that necessitate knee replacements. At the very least, if you are going to make random attributions, put it in a blog section rather than the news section.

  24. Please refer to the recent NYT article about teen boys becoming obese in their attempts to make the HS or college football team - suddenly 250 pounds is way too small. Upwards of 325 is the new goal weight. But then, people like me are mystified by those who think football matters at all.

  25. The risk of dying in a car accident may be greater than the risk of dying from football, but the risk of brain damage is much much much greater in football. Players hit their heads every time they practice or play. Car accidents do not happen at that rate.

    KNOW: helmets do not protect the brain; traumatic brain injury can cause mental illness as well as other brain dysfunction; concussive brain damage is cumulative; and modern medicine cannot fix the brain.

    We cannot predict a car accident: minor or fatal. But we CAN PREDICT that males who play football will have traumatic brain injury, minor or fatal.

    We can PREVENT traumatic brain injury from football: simply don't play.

  26. Sean-

    an NFL player is 15 times more likely to receive a knee replacement by age 50 than his non-football playing counterpart. Not exactly "random...

  27. The death of any child, under any circumstance, is unthinkable. All good parents know this and live with the possibility, almost from the moment of conception. Good parents try to limit the risk, as much a humanly possible, without stifling the child's development. Sports, at their best, develop coping skills that lead to maturity. Football, like boxing before it, has outlived that usefulness. Parents need to level with themselves; are you letting him play for his reasons or your own? Because with everything that's known, not just the possibility of death, no one's son should be playing. It was thought that football developed men. All it does is rob them of their faculties and the the full use of their body over time.
    My son played football and who knows how much damage has been done to him? His team won three consecutive state championships; it wasn't worth it. You live in the present, not the past. He stopped playing his sophomore year of college in 2012, after two concussions in one season. Who knows how many concussions he had in his lifetime, prior? I reveled in his glory days, as well, so I am complicit. There is no rationalizing; choose better for your child.

  28. My son played football since the age of 10. His last high school game was the last game of his life. I loved football because he loved football, even though by the time of his last game, the reports of permanent brain damage were in the news. Like the mothers in this story, I did not know how to forbid him from doing something he loved. But the reasons he loved it -- the fellowship, the sense of accomplishments, the attention of coaches, the physical exertion, the thrill of winning -- we need to find safe ways for our children to have these experiences in a way that does not involved such a dangerous sport.

    I do not watch football anymore. And my advice to any parent who has a 10-year-old that wants to play in the little leagues is to just say no and find some other sport for your son. You are the parent and you must say no.

  29. Penetrating article by Billy Witz. He shows the very strong devotion to football in this society that ties it to school identity. It's always been that way. When I was in high school, we had a strong football identity. There was no thought of death, but here were knee injuries, among others. I think that injuries were viewed as an acceptable risk in the sport by the devoted fans. Kids desperately wanted to play and some fathers pushed their sons into the sport.

    It's difficult to imagine banning football in our secondary schools, if not impossible to imagine it. And it is also difficult to imagine any safer way to play that sport. Thus advocates must accept the risks associated with the frequently violent contact that it requires. Hockey is no different; I know someone whose son experienced a concussion in one game and the discussion was, "When can he play again?"

    Without making any moral judgement one way or another, one can feel that it is awfully odd for children to have to accept the known risk of death in an activity at their ages. Indeed, willfully acquiescing to a possible death in a pass time at any age is questionable but it is part of the human condition. However, that a school's identity is so firmly rooted in football makes it that much more difficult for a child and his parents to make a rational decision on whether or not to play that sport.

  30. You write "It is difficult to imagine banning football in our secondary schools." It was difficult to imagine banning smoking in restaurants, offices, and airplanes, but when the medical evidence was conclusive that smoking was bad for our health, the difficult to imagine happened. And we're all better for it.

    It might have been easier to ban smoking because of the issue of how "second-hand smoke" affected the non-smokers, the "innocent bystanders" if you will.

    When catastrophic football injuries happen, it's the individual player whose life is lost -- not the whole team, not his family, not his friends, his schoolmates, or his neighbors. But knowing what we know now, we can't call ourselves innocent bystanders.

    We're guilty bystanders.

  31. I first tried football last year, having never donned pads in my life, on a whim. I was aware of the risks, but decided I didnt want to pass on the opportunity of a lifetime because I was afraid of the infinitesimally small probability I would be gravely injured. Now, a starting varsity player, I can safely say, that was one of the best descisions I have ever made. The sport itself is fantastic, both challenging, and rewarding, with the added bonus of being extremely fun.
    But it is so much more than a sport. It is a family, and it is a way of life. I view all of the players on the team as brothers, and the lessons we learn about sportsmanship, and the importance of giving 110% of your effort, easily translate from the field, to the classroom, to everyday life. Im sure that I speak for the vast majority of the young men who have played football when I say it has been one of the greatest positive influences I have ever had. This is due to the asolutely outstandingly good coaching we have as a team. All of the coaches treat the players like their own flesh and blood.. and it is evident immediately how much they care about our well-being both on and off the field.
    I will remeber my high school football career as one of the best times of my life until the day I die.

  32. The key: good coaching. I have watched a team in Oregon over a period of 10 years of sports writing. Four head coaches. A plethora of assistant coaches good, bad and indifferent. One head coach stands out over any other. His name---Mark Kirk. A compassionate leader who instilled the values of team work, discipline, academics and love. If you couldn't meet his standard, you sat. Didn't letter. The coach before him was a loser and in two years allowed more serious injuries than in the previous 10 years. It's about the coaching. Never forget. It's about competent leadership. High School sports is NOT about winning or losing. It's about learning teamwork. It's about being part of something bigger. 100 years ago high school sport was about individual ability whether one was Italian, Pole, German or Greek. It was a way of integrating newcomers to America into our society. We are the ONLY country that has high school sports. Why? We are the only country that accepts a person on the basis of his/her ability, not because of his nationality, religion, race, or ethnicity.

  33. What do you do if an opponent is injured? How does that differ from what you do if a teammate is injured?

  34. Steve, if, God forbid, someone on either side was injured, the entire team goes down on one knee until the fallen team member either walks of the field, or is driven off. During recovery, if the player was from our team, the entire team assists him in every way possible in order to make that student's life easier. If the injury afflicted an opponent, or team checks regularly in with the opponent and his family (sends get well cards, goodies, etc.).
    Fortunately injuries are rare.

  35. I played 4 years of HS football at a pretty good school. It won the state championship a few times a few years after I graduated. I'm 60 now and I know things change but playing football in HS, spending a few years in military service, these things add moral character to a kid. Like this term or not, these years make a boy into a man. A man who can be trusted and who can lead when the chips are down. A man who will have the confidence to break from the pack when he perceives the pack to be wrong. I feel terribly about this young man who died doing what he loved to do. I do suspect that had he had the good fortune to live another 30 years we would find a self-reliant, intelligent, hard charger who could move the compass, while so many young kids canno

  36. "...break from the pack when he perceives the pack to be wrong". One learns this on a football team and in the military? Really? And not get tossed off the team or court martialed? This is just the absurd fantasy that fuels such unnecessary injuries, deaths, and even wars, which again are linked to football. Really, really sad. We need our myths more than we need our sons, it seems.

  37. It is a shame that in today's day and age this country is still debating whether a child should be allowed to inflict brain damage on another child -- whether voluntary or not.

    Like tobacco and now climate change, the studies are there but people cling to past memories. Let us move on to newer and greater things.

  38. Like many people who will read this article, I played contact sports into my mid 20's. Now in my mid 30's I have tremendous physical issues as a result of the abuse I put my body through day after day year round. Bad knees, hips, dizziness, leg problems ect.

    I would deter my children to participate in contact sports if possible. Even soccer has its problems with the heading of the ball but if I were to do it all over again I would have run cross country and played badminton.

    People shouldn't only think about the short term effects like possible death, but they should realize the long term implications of contact sports. Just ask the nfl and nhl players suing their employers.

  39. Two knee replacements. One spleen removed which nearly resulted in death. One chipped tooth with costs still accumulating. The lucky one was the one injured early with just a minor knee mishap that kept him from playing. This in one family. I would try to direct kids away from football.

  40. When you add together not just the deaths but also the concussions with their resultant decrease of mental capacity, and all the other accidents many of them with serious consequences in adulthood, and combine that with injuries and deaths outside of the school system then what you see is a clear pattern of child abuse.

    It is simply another example of how we have been duped by the culture into blindly obeying a course of action that when closely analyzed is seen to go against that which we value most, in this case the life and welfare of our children.

  41. In just the last few years we have all learned a great deal about the dangers of football. If you watched the PBS report (the one that the NFL refused to support at the 11th hour) -- how do you unring that bell?

    We know too much about it now to pretend it's safe. Especially if you are a parent.

    When smoking was proven to be bad for your health, some people wised up and quit. Some didn't. A lot of them are sorry now.

    My heart breaks for the parents who lose sons to A GAME. IT'S A GAME, FOLKS. So is Russian Roulette.

    And what about the player who causes the young man's death? How do they deal with it?

    It's tragic that the parents of one of these boys continues to attend football practice. Who visits the scene of a car crash? To relive it?

    You know what you have to do. Do you have the maturity and fortitude to do it?

  42. DeAndre Thornton should never have been allowed to go back into that game after a hit like that. The CDC's Heads Up program has developed very clear guidelines for treating a player with a possible concussion and those guidelines have been widely distributed to high school coaches. Letting the player make the decision about whether to continue playing was an inexcusable decision about coaching staff.

  43. According to the article, a phone app was used, but it is not clear what the app actually does: "Clover typed the results into an application on his phone ..."

  44. De-fund all youth football programs at public schools, including public universities. Better yet, make that all team sports. Jock culture is sick. It teaches:

    1. that if you want something, just shove the guy or gal who has it and take it away.
    2. that by putting on a team jersey everyone else becomes a de-humanized "other" whom you can cudgel or rape without a care
    3. afterward, have a beer to celebrate

  45. I'm waiting for the day when soccer, known as "association football" in the rest of the world, replaces the brutal and dangerous sport we call "football" in this country.

    Soccer is fast-pasted, exciting and develops more athleticism that football. Watching the World Cup, I always wonder why soccer isn't the premier sport in America that it is most other places.

  46. Further, a fielded soccer team has 11 players, so as many students can play at once as in football.

  47. High schools are the farm teams for college and pro football. College and pro football are huge money-makers. Part of the money is used to glamorize the sport through TV advertising and NFL broadcasts. Money. That is what drives football. That is why this boy died.

  48. I cannot watch a football game any longer — knowing that I'm watching a sport that destroys bodies and brains, with systemic regularity. American football has become a cult-like ritual — fueled by commercial profit interests — that contributes to encouraging, rather than channeling, violence. There are other, far better ways to demonstrate and celebrate manly strength, stamina, and courage.

  49. We will never achieve a risk-free world. Nor should we want to. Removing all physical and emotional risks would make our lives sterile and uninteresting. Finding a balance between risk and benefit means different things to different people: Risking health in exchange for a multi-million dollar paycheck or for glory that could never be achieved anywhere else may truly be a reasonable choice for some individuals to make. Risking health for someone else's financial gain or glory (including prideful parents, coaches, or school officials) is something else entirely.
    It would be nice if we could just muddle through life and learn from our own mistakes. But after seven decades of muddling, I must reluctantly admit to those times when it would have been much to my advantage if I had been protected from my own unfiltered or rationalized folly and from the predatory behavior of others.
    This specific issue is quite simple. If football is a game that is too dangerous for our children to play in its present form, then it is a game that is too dangerous for them to play in its present form.

  50. The underlying problem here is not a sport per say, rather the violence imprinted on our kids as a necessary part of a sport. Sports used to be about the skills of the game, teamwork, and strategy to "win". CA is an admirable place as many of their junior schools play just to play wherein both teams and all the kids "win". Today, as America has lost all semblance of what it means to be sportsman-like, beginning in high school, sports have become an arena for extra-angry violence, destruction, and death which continues in a young athletes life right up until he is killed by cumulative brain damage in the NFL whose executives are the largest league of delusional ostriches in the sand. Thanks to the relentless pursuit of one thing that has supplanted every value we once had: Money. With so much violence in the games many sports not even enjoyable to watch anymore. Click.

  51. "He was one of more than a dozen high school players in the United States who died this year as a direct result of playing football. "

    Twelve died playing football just this year? Twelve? Wow, that's a lot of death in one game. It isn't like every guy in high school plays either, only a small percentage of any given high school male population participates. What's not said is how many more are paralyzed or suffer other significant injuries. I'm not supporting any in my extended family playing this game. It's just not worth it.

  52. Some day, we'll look back on the barbarism that is football, and be amazed that we watched it with little concern for the mayhem it caused. But that day is not in our near future, as evidenced by the NFL's whitewash of its injury problems, and by the continued fervor that exists for the sport in this country.

  53. Suppose a food served in school cafeterias was killing a kid here and there every year. What do you think would happen? Do you think that the food would still be served, even were it a favorite choice?

    Maybe we should reevaluate these sports from a rational point of view, rather than simply saying that "it's an American tradition." Kids want to play, because their elders teach them that playing is important. We steered our son toward safer sports, including soccer, swimming and tennis. He's in great shape. Why do we continue to expose our children to dangerous activities, when there are so many alternatives?

  54. The argument against football is not about the odds of dying on the field. It's about recurrent brain injuries that over time lead to an alarming incidence of early-onset dementia, catastrophic brain damage, and even death. There are many great sports for your kids to participate in that do not involve slamming their head into another child with a helmet or a rock hard soccer ball. Ultimately, the sports your kids pursue are chosen by you.

  55. Football has long been a symbol of American character. It's that resolve to not let adversities keep you down; pulling oneself back up by the boot straps and moving forward, even if you have to crawl. Coupled with that is a sense of camaraderie amongst young men who suffer together, very similar to military. There is also a generational tradition in many families. NFL has capitalized on this emotional connection and made bazillions. No wonder many still look at the risks of playing football through rose-colored glasses. They hope the risks are not that bad or rationalize how life is inherently risky.

  56. I'm so thankful today that my 5 grandsons have parents who have resolved that they will NOT allow their sons to play football or hockey. They're teaching them to love other, less contact sports where their brains and their bodies, even their very lives, won't be put at such high risk for nothing of any consequence. Team sports build many fine qualities. You don't need team sports where they bash each other to death.

  57. We have forgotten that sports are supposed to be fun, and that children's sports are supposed to teach the value of hard work and good sportsmanship, not killing your opponent for the win.

  58. It is so tempting to point to statistics to claim football is safe. But this is a rationalization of the underlying nature of the game.

    In a football game, the difference between good health, injury, and death is essentially incremental. A play that might lead to paralysis one time causes no injury one hundred times. A simple difference to a player's body angle is all it takes, such that the top of his head goes into another player rushing toward him, a la Dennis Byrd. In contrast, we do not go out driving our cars and slamming into each other then lamenting the inevitable death and injuries as accidents. While instruction on proper hitting technique may help, it certainly does not ensure safety.

    This viewpoint certainly does not overturn the fact that parents absolutely need not worry about their child's death on the football field. However, it points out that the values of football and the very nature of the game are violent. In the 2010 BCS championship game between Texas and Alabama, Colt McCoy was injured by a big hit early in the game and it was celebrated by the commentators. Hard hits win games because success comes down to momentum of human bodies. Those bodies have heads attached, heads with brains that do not like sudden acceleration. It seems for football, the head and heart must often go separate ways.

  59. People need to see the Frontline documentary about the long-term consequences of concussions (and even regular play) in football. It is absolutely a possibility that regular everyday play is dangerous to the players' health at all levels of football.

  60. The scariest story in that documentary was that of Owen Thomas, the 21 year-old University of Pennsylvania football player who had CTE.

  61. Millions of young men have played organized football over the past 150 years. Hard facts demonstrate that it is no more dangerous than many other games and activities, not to mention occupations, in which boys and young men engage. Stories abound of tragedies in which apparently healthy high schoolers drop dead while playing baseball or basketball. Other contact sports such as hockey, lacrosse, rugby, hurling are prone to occasional unfortunate injuries. So is gymnastics. Far more young men -- and women -- drown while swimming recreationally. Yet, football is singled out for what had become a wholesale attack. It's impossible to escape the conclusion that this reflects the distain of self-appointed intellectual elites for what they consider to be modern "gladiators"

  62. Sorry, no. You do not supply evidence for these conclusion and in fact there is none -- football is far more dangerous, for example, than baseball or basketball. Football glamorizes aggression and violence and those who play may pay huge penalties.

  63. I'll take my chances with swimming.

  64. You can call me a "self-appointed intellectual elite". Or you can call me a "nurse who worked on a brain injury unit and saw the devastating consequences of brain injuries". Whichever makes you feel more superior.

  65. The dangers of football and other contact sports will endure along with those sports forever no matter the compelling reasons to prohibit them. And brutal contact during play is perilous enough but why congratulatory headbutting is allowed is beyond comprehension. Those knocks no matter how joyful are also hurtful and ought to be banned in youth play as well as professional!

  66. We do not need to eliminate football - we need to write and enforce realistic rules. Sports build character and in some instances they keep children in school who oath wise would drop out. For some children the team is their family.

  67. It is heartbreaking to hear parents abdicate their responsibilities on the excuse of "My son loves to play football." Would they say the same thing if their sons said, "I love to drive 100 miles per hour." Or "I love getting drunk." Or "I love bullying people not like me?" Young boys and teens, and even many men into their 20's feel immortal and are truly unable to evaluate risky behavior or weigh the prospect of future consequences against the immediate rush of adrenaline or the pleasure of doing what his peers urge. That is what parents are supposed to do for them. It is difficult when the NFL, a multi-billion dollar industry, preys on just those adolescent tendencies for its profit. The NCAA is just as obscene, luring football players into servitude with the prospect of NFL contracts that amount to little more than trading one's physical well being for a few years of money that quickly disappears.

    With so many former NFL players finally disclosing the irreparable and horrific physical damage, it is time to sever the pipeline to both college and pro football by finding another way to provide the positive aspects of the football team, without the football.

  68. I've been a teacher for 47 years, all but 6 of those years right here in the US. I think we could learn a lot from the role that sports play in schools in other countries - but we may not think others can teach us anything.

    I remember how much students in Malaysia loved soccer. They would play on the soccer field at the nearby college before dinner or on weekends - no coaches, no five-day a week practices - just having fun. I remember how students in Ecuador loved playing basketball. They would play after school or on weekends with teams made up of students, teachers, relatives, and even the local priest - no coaches, no five-day a week practices - just having fun. And I remember how the students in China organized athletic meets with neighboring schools. They would first ask for permission from school authorities to use the school's playing fields, then arrange everything else themselves. There were no five-day a week practices before the meet, and students competed in basketball, soccer, running and ping-pong. It was all fun, and then they all sat down together on the field and had a picnic, with quite a few parents taking part.

    It's not only football that doesn't belong in our schools; our schools should not be in the business of running organized sports which often become - in the minds of many students, teachers and parents - more important than what goes on in the classroom.

    Want a safe character-building activity? Study hard and do well in the classroom.

  69. Maybe the players would be safer with the old, leather helmet.
    The modern synthetic helmet may serve to protect better but it, more importantly, fosters the helmet first contact, i,e., the battering ram. Head first tackles in my day were extremely rare, and only the marginally insane would make like a missile while wearing the leather helmet.
    The attitude of the player is a factor probably ignored in studies of the protection offered by the modern helmet, but the casual observer can see the players now have little fear, as we used to have, of the head first tackle.

  70. End football. It embodies and encourages false value and exposes those who play it to severe injury and death.

  71. Luckily, I escaped serious injury as a skinny high-school running back. But like lots of men my age, I have reminders of those seasons: a broken nose, fractured fingers, a chronically sore knee. I remember many hits that made me dizzy; I'm told that these were probably concussions. This was in the 50's. There was an appalling lack of good sense. We played without face masks, unless we had already sustained a bad nose injury or a fractured jaw.

  72. Dizziness is indeed a symptom of concussion.[1] The problem is that the symptoms could be overlooked in the middle of a football game, because they "can be subtle and may not be immediately apparent." The article mentions a phone app, but there is no information about how effective it is in diagnosing a concussion.

    [1] Concussion: Symptoms

  73. The tragedy of death at a young age, cannon be minimized.

    However, many other childhood activities are dangerous.

    "Heading into this season, [2013] there were at least 25 fatal injuries to American high school football players since 2003, according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research at the University of North Carolina."

    The loss of 677 lives in bicycle/motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. in 2011

  74. And therefore football is ok? Cars are an essential element of transportation. Bike riding should be made as safe as possible. What makes the loss of life, injury and dementia in football unspeakably egregious is that the game glamorizes and encourages aggression and violence. End football.

  75. "He was one of more than a dozen high school players in the United States who died this year as a direct result of playing football." 12 deaths that didn't have to happen, all for a "sport". Change the rules. Now. Make football safer. Protect brains. And until the rules change, parents should refuse to sign permission slips for their kids. What parent is willing to let their kid get repeated hits to the head that could very well result in suicide or dementia down the road? What parent can fathom what it is like to stand by your child's hospital bed after a severe head and/or spinal cord injury?

    How do you say "No" to what a child loves? You say, "No". End of story. You say no to lots of dangerous things: drinking and driving, doing drugs, driving fast, etc. Here is one chance were the parent can actually PREVENT the behavior. Just stop signing the permission slip. How much evidence do you need? Did you watch the Frontline story on concussions in football?

    I worked as a nurse on a brain injury acute rehab unit and now as a nurse practitioner I see plenty of patients with dementia. The idea that young men's brains are being put at risk for football horrifies me. They are NOT old enough to weigh the consequences of their actions. The parents are. A brain injury changes everything; that I saw in spades every single day. Dementia, suicide, brain injury... insane risks to take for a "game".

  76. Isn't it time that parents stop living their dreams through their children?

  77. That's almost always the discussion -- "when can I play again" -- until you tell them over and over that this is only Pop Warner, or JV, or nonstarting position and you need to sit out until healed.

    And also starting varsity, yes.

  78. This is a story. It would make a good movie, give a lot of people something to think about.

  79. Pay attention to the slow motion replays on television of professional and university/college football games. Notice the frequent occurrence of players heads rattling in their helmets, full body tackles with the force terminating on the head hitting the ground, and the helmet slapping gestures of fellow team players. The human brain did not evolve to absorb such impact abuse hence head injuries are common.

  80. "He sat there, slightly dazed and uncomfortable, but answered Clover’s questions and took a few tests, like standing on one foot with his eyes closed for 20 seconds. Clover typed the results into an application on his phone ..."

    How effective is this app at diagnosing brain injury?

  81. The big suburban high school I attended in western New york during the first half of the seventies didn't field a football team because years previous,a player had died on the field during a football game.The details were never discussed but the reasoning behind the ban was accepted as obvious and hardly
    questioned.No one missed the game.No one cared.My alma mater did field regionally competitive teams in soccer,wrestling and basketball during my time there,however,and those teams drew just as much support from the students and the community as the NCAA Division I college team did,relatively speaking,at the university I subsequently attended.Football isn't the only game in town at the high school level to build character or any of the other esoteric qualities attributed to it.If the motivation is financial,however…….

  82. Jacob speaks with a youthful exuberance that is appropriate for his age. I speak with the caution of hindsight after watching lives altered by a simple flash of light. (I was a combat Army doctor in Vietnam before practicing 40 years of pediatrics). Jacob eloquently describes the benefits of giving up something of yourself to be part of a team effort. Not all youngsters share his enthusiasm - some learn the pain of being bullied or permanently injured as the consequence of wanting to be part of that same team. Team sports reflect the good and bad of the society we live in - but this has nothing to do with risk assessment. Driving a car has many benefits that are not diminished when risk is reduced by wearing a seatbelt; playing football has many benefits that will not be reduced for players (although some spectators will surely complain) when MEANINGFUL rule changes better protect them from overt violence and unnecessary injuries. Even the gladiators who play professional football have started holding team owners accountable for past and present abuses. And no one thinks of modern day soldiers as wimps for wearing mandatory body armour that was shunned by our troops in Vietnam. (One of the reasons that there were 58,000 dead.) At Jacob's age, risk assessment tends to underestimate risk or ignore it altogether. His mentors should be wiser.

  83. The App that was used was CARE-sport this is just used to record the information from the assessment done. There are others like this that Include the 1) graded symptom checklist 2) SAC Exam 3) BESS Eval. This is just part of what is assessed to determine if the athletes is concussed or not. If there are any signs or symptoms of a concussion the athlete will be removed from play for the remainder of the day while being sent for further care at that time and can not return to play until they have been seen by an MD or DO and put through a return to play protocol. go to for more information.

  84. "How do you tell them not to do something they love?"

    Let's hear what she says when she finds out her son loves having unprotected sex, loves smoking pot all day long, or loves drinking and driving.

    It's called part of being a parent, people.

  85. The tragedy here is that loving parents all over this country send their sons out to play a sport that has now had a lot of research to show that the risk of long term brain injury is a very strong possibility. Yet parents let and encourage their sons to play and Americans continue to pay big money to watch football games at every level. Therein lies the double horror: not only are young boys and men put at risk but they are done so as part of a vast money making machine all in the name of American culture and the buck to be made by football for universities, football team owners, tv empires and all the corporations that pay for advertisements during games. How low can we go as a nation?