A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Tag: pee wee football

Presidential Concern

Obama playing football

By Ryan Morrison

On January 16, President Barack Obama made it clear that if he had a son, he would have to think “long and hard” before he let Junior play football. This isn’t an attack on the sport, it’s our nation slowly coming to terms with just how dangerous and damaging the game can be to its players.

As a relatively new journalist, I often feel overwhelmed and helpless. There’s so much wrong that needs righting, so much news that need telling, and so much time and energy wasted in shock and awe because Beyonce-lipsyched-the-national-anthem.

So it is extraordinarily inspiring to realize that one journalist, Alan Schwarz of the New York Times, is responsible for effectuating change in a behemoth as powerful as the NFL. Starting with just basic math that no one took the time to check (or that they chose to ignore), Mr. Schwarz painstakingly analyzed the rate of brain injuries in ex-NFL players, versus the rate in the general population.  He wrote story after story.

And the stories led to Congressional hearings, NFL rule changes, and a reworking of our nation’s mindset as we opened our eyes to the true horror story that are concussions.

In this age of cost cutting at every (still extant) newspaper across the country, we’re fortunate to have amongst us dogged investigative reporters like Mr. Schwarz, and his employer, the New York Times.

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Because a Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste

football-helmet

By Ryan Morrison

Last Friday evening I attended a screening of “Head Games,” a documentary detailing the current concussion crisis in sports. It’s been just over a week, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

Steve James, director of “Hoop Dreams,” one of the best sports documentaries of all time (actually, one of the best documentaries, period), now brings us the story of Christopher Nowinski, ex-football player and professional wrestler turned author and activist. If you’ve played contact sports at some point in your life, Mr. Nowinski wants your brain.

He also wants to make clear that whatever happens in college football and the NFL is repeated by millions of children in their pee wee and high school leagues. The issue is not merely whether, as a sports fan, you agree with concussion inspired rule changes in the NFL, but whether, as a mom or dad, you’re protecting your child’s future.

As Mr. Nowinski, who grew up loving the sport, says, “If I had a six-year-old playing football I would be freaked out, and rightly so. You’re playing Russian roulette with their future.”

The science of the long-term negative impact of concussions is explained in the film so clearly that even I, a guy who passes out in hospitals, easily understood it. Brain after brain and doctor after doctor point to the same conclusion: Concussions are a very serious problem and the signs of long term damage (most notably Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a degenerative disease that in Nowinski’s words “can make you go crazy”) have been found in even a few teenage athletes. And not just in football. Lacrosse, hockey, and even women’s soccer are also damaging our children’s brains.

So the message is clear. It’s getting the message out that’s the problem.

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