Unsafe at Any Age

By Johnny Ginter on June 4, 2012 at 1:00 pm
All is well!

If I have to hear P.O.D's "Boom" even one more time on another stupid football highlight video I am literally going to go insane. The American Christian rock quartet's homage to being douchebags who are also kind of from the south (they're actually from San Diego, which is kind of like finding out Justin Bieber is actually from a particularly bad part of Tijuana) was released in 2002, and quickly became the song of choice for anyone looking to insist via the internet that they meant serious business.

Seeing how the song itself is, ironically, an affront to God, it's perfect that it has been used as the theme music for countless football-related head traumas on Youtube. "Boom" is the exact kind of song that you want to hear when you don't want to have to think about the very real physical toll that is being inflicted on the person at the receiving end of what almost always is an illegal hit.

But hey! Not if they're kids, right? After all, as is a common meme, kids can't give each other concussions! That's ridiculous! After all, their small bodies simply can't generate enough force to cause a concussion or other brain injuries. It's scientific fact that a 6 foot 2, 215 pound safety in high school is more honor bound to the laws of gravity and inertia than a 6 foot 2, 215 pound safety in the NFL, so therefore...

Oh. Oh God.

However, professional athletes are not the only group affected by concussions. Young people are also at risk because of immature brains and a lack of specialized equipment at the school level. ... In 2008, an estimated 44,000 emergency room visits were related to concussion from sports, and 58 percent of those cases were in high school-aged children.

Okay, so 25 thousand concussions (that are actually reported and treated) sounds like a lot. But whatever, you know? Kids are resilient, and I'm sure that they recover faster than their adult counterparts, and are able to get back on the field even faster than big ol babies like Troy Aikman.

Recent studies have shown that adolescents take longer to recover from concussions compared to adults. In fact, some cases can take up to 40 days from the actual incident. In many cases — about 41 percent — adolescent athletes might return to their sport too early, which can make them susceptible to something called Second Impact Syndrome, which is avoidable but could result in death if not managed.

My point is here is that through a culture of short clips of "hits" and "knocks" and "booms," we're essentially fostering a sports culture where we say it's okay if kids do something stupid because it looks cool. As brutal of a sport as football is, and as conflicted as I can be sometimes about my support for college football and the NFL because of that, players at those levels generally understand the risks and are given appropriate training to mitigate those risks. In other words, players still get horrifically injured, but we don't have to feel quite as guilty about it.

For me, that simply doesn't extend to Pop Warner and high school football.

I got away from doing a feature about random OSU related videos from the internet I called "Ye Olde Youtube Fridays" (or Tuesdays, or Wednesdays, or whenever), mostly because it was a pretty lazy way to crank out a low effort article. But today I have another series of videos, and I want you to watch them and then try and tell me that kids, even kids as young as 5 or 6, can't inflict major head trauma on each other and that some coaches, fans, and even parents aren't encouraging it.


There are, of course, dozens of more examples to be found on Youtube, just search for "Pop Warner hit" and you'll have hours of fun watching children concuss each other.

The real issue is this: as Roger Goodell and the rest of the NFL attempts to confront the concussion and CTE issue, steps may or may not be taken to make the sport safer on that level. It's possible that some of those changes may spill over into the college game, but for now there's still a prevailing opinion that head injuries are a problem because of how the game is played at a professional level, not with the sport itself. It's a problem even Goodell recognizes.

However, in one sense it may be true. Football can be played relatively safely, at least as safely as a contact sport can be played. But the problem is that, from a very young age, kids are taught that football isn't football if you don't play to hurt. Proper tackling, not blindsiding other players, not headhunting, and so on are signs of weakness. A big hit, knocking the other player out, and putting the subsequent video on Youtube (accompanied by some idiots from San Diego yelling about their dope trip to Tokyo) is macho and tough.

People who want to defend this will tell you that it isn't a problem, that if you changed football by making blindside hits illegal or by suspending players who lead with their helmets that you'd ruin the game, that we aren't causing harm to children and adolescents by encouraging stupidity.

The statistics disagree.

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