Malcolm Gladwell is an accomplished author, in fact I find his book “Blink” as one of the most influential in my little world. He has spoken out against the dangers of football even comparing it to dog-fighting, but through all the hyperbole there are some very valid and astute points that need to be listened to.
Kathy Waldman did and interview with Gladwell and wrote it up for Slate on Monday. Here I will highlight the most striking Q and A’s, you can read the entire article HERE.
Slate: What do you think is the single most compelling reason to abolish college football? Corruption? Head injury? Lost focus on academics?
Malcolm Gladwell: The factor that I think will be decisive is the head-injury issue. Colleges are going to get sued, and they will have to decide whether they can afford their legal exposure. That said, the issue ought to be how big-time college sports subverts the academic mission of university education.
If it becomes a problem at the college level, what does that say about the lower levels? I agree that head-injury issue is the biggest factor yet unknown to the football world. However, I also believe that proper systems and oversight can help mitigate the risk enough that it still can be played. The biggest issue being that of athletic trainers on the sideline and at all contact practices. If a school cannot afford to have the oversight of a medical professional – one that is educated and bread for just this – then can you really afford to continue to expose that many people to the inherent risk?
Slate: Is unacceptable risk intrinsic to football, or could rule changes and equipment modifications salvage the game?
Gladwell: You can certainly mitigate the risk. But remember the issue isn’t concussions. It is “repetitive subconcussive impact.” It’s not the one big hit. It is the cumulative effect of thousands of little hits that lineman and defensive backs (the most affected positions) endure, play after play. Can you take the “head” out of line play? You can. But then what you are left with would no longer be called tackle football. It would be called touch football.
Listen, concussions will continue even if there is flag or touch football, they happen at alarming rates in cheerleading and other “non-collision” sports like soccer. The elephant in the room is not the injury rather the management and the overall process of the concussive episode. That is why there is a dire need for athletic trainers to be at any school/organization that chooses to participate in any risky sport.
What is the cost of a ruined life due to misidentification and mismanagement of concussion? I can certainly tell you the cost of an athletic trainer is MUCH less. Yes, not every concussion nor injury will be found by an athletic trainer, I can attest to that, however there will be plenty of situations that the athletic trainer will provide much-needed help. Heck AT’s have even been known to save vast amounts of LIVES with use of AED’s and cooling techniques in oppressive heat situations.
Yes we athletic trainers can do this.