One of the more gratifying things about this blog is the chance to educate anyone about concussions and the athletic training profession. I truly enjoy going out to speak and even debate this hot topic. I understand that my thought process is not like everyone else, nor do I expect everyone to see it the way I do; however I do want people to become more educated and understand what we are facing with this problem.
As I was wrapping up my interview for a local TV station about the new IHSA Heat Acclimatization Policy, I received and email from a school here in Illinois that used my blog to become better aware of the concussion issue. Honestly, nothing makes me smile more than to provide that to teachers and kids. The email ended with some questions regarding concussions, I will answer them here (not only for everyone to see but to give a little pub to the students and teachers of Cuba High School).
My current events class has been debating and conducting research about concussions. I have had them use your blog for resources and it is very informative. We also just finished watching “Head Games” documentary and had further discussions. Many of my students are athletes and have raised interesting questions specifically towards how our small rural high school can best prevent head injuries. I know you’re a busy guy so we cut our questions to just 3. Any chance of a response would be greatly appreciated.
1) The film “Head Games” recommended that high school football programs should only have 1 day of full contact per week (same as the NFL does) instead of having full pads all year round. What is your opinion about this?
2) What about schools like ours that can’t afford athletic trainers like bigger schools can? We do on game days but not always at practice. How can smaller communities like ours be creative about this issue?
3) Would you permit your children to play contact sports like football or hockey under the age of 14 or 12 or any age at all?
Thanks for your time and all the work you do around this important issue.
Cuba High School
No, thank you for your time and effort Coach Brewer, now on to the answers;
- I believe contact limits are both necessary for safety and for the longevity of the sport of football in high school. I have always wondered why the sports’ supreme athletes; who have the best coaching, the best medical care, the most resources for knowledge, and the most to lose due to injury have contact limits. While, youth and high school aged players; who have decent coaching, who knows what for medical coverage, and limited resources are allowed to hit with no limits. It seems a bit backwards to me. Moreover, there are examples of programs doing this already, take for example the winningest football coach of all time – John Gagliardi – who does not hit in practices. I do see a trickle down effect coming, as states and even the NFHS may adopt limits similar to the NFL and Ivy League, Arizona already has.
- The athletic trainer issue is a tough one, only because of money. I have stated many times before that I feel that if you cannot afford an athletic trainer you cannot afford collision sports. It seems harsh but really the job of the athletic trainer is to protect kids and make sure they are safe. Granted a high school coach has this ultimate responsibility too, but I would think coaches would welcome this to lessen their stress and problems. Game coverage is an absolute minimum, if that is all can be afforded then perhaps there should not be hitting in practices? If you can afford a day of practice, make sure the hit days coincide with the presence of an athletic trainer. What can commonly be overlooked with the athletic trainer issue is that they are not just there for concussions, we can provide so much more in the way of injury prevention and assessment. The investment is well worth the price, in my honest and biased opinion.
- For better or worse, I am committed to not allowing my kids play full contact/collision sports until high school. My son will be playing flag football this fall, and I am pumped for him to learn and love the game. If any of my children wanted to play hockey or lacrosse or rugby, GREAT, but it will not be full contact varieties of those sports while they are young. I do believe that children need to be part of sports, with that I also feel they can foster a love of the game or games without having to be subjected to repetitive head trauma. Certainly risks arise with all sports (batted ball to the head, elbow to the head, etc.) but those sports are not based in full speed collisions, like football or hockey. Do I fear – like I have heard so many times – that my sons will grow up and be less a “man” because he did not play full contact football until high school if he chooses? ABSOLUTELY NOT! Think about all the people in our lives and then find out how many played football, and of those how many played before 14, not many compared to who we know. Another thing, the thought that playing pee wee football will help make a player better and more likely to play at higher levels, that is just nonsense. Highly specialized and professional athletes are more often than not born with the abilities, granted some work hard, but they were lucky enough to win the sports DNA lottery.
Again thanks for the inquiry and I hope more teachers/coaches like you are out there! Go Wildcats!
*NF stands for North Fulton, the sports cooperative that Cuba HS belongs to.