Q: Should I stop watching collision sports?
A: For many, this is not a simple question. Relationships
are built around
and when these experiences include collision sports,
the connection can be addictive.
To help with this, we suggest considering Derek Parfit's
Concussions happen everywhere; why focus on football?
First and foremost, our coalition is school-centered. We focus on collision sports like tackle football because they are the main source of brain injuries in schools, and we need to do more to prevent exposure.
Don’t collisions happen in almost every sport?
Collisions are intrinsic and unavoidable in only a handful of school-sponsored activities. We are most concerned with activities where physical dominance is the goal and repetitive brain trauma is common. In schools, this means collision sports. It’s easy to remember this because collisions are the number one cause of brain injuries. Whether it’s a fall, bike wreck, body check, or tackle, inertia generates internal trauma and stress. Neural insulation, called myelin, critical for communication, is often compromised or destroyed. And we’re not just talking about big hits. When it comes to brain health, enduring multiple “minor” collisions over the course of time can cause devastating chronic problems.
But, isn’t girls’ soccer just as dangerous as football?
Tackle football is undeniably the most dangerous, widespread activity in our schools today; but, yes, serious injuries also occur in soccer. Anytime repetitive brain trauma is involved, health risks increase. Repeatedly heading a regulation soccer ball is not a benign activity, especially for young people whose brains are still developing. And heading invariably leads to aerial duels, which cause severe injuries.
So we ask the question: is heading a ball an essential skill for lifelong health and wellness practices? Sometimes it's just that simple. When you fully understand the fragility of the gelatinous organ floating inside your skull, it becomes clear that intentionally hitting anything with your head is a bad idea.
So how old should you be before it’s safe?
There is no safe age for repetitive brain trauma. The damage is invisible and accumulates over time. In addition, significant evidence suggests a progressive pathology. Brain cells do not heal like muscle or skin. In the brain, once injuries occur, “clean-up” procedures are initiated to mitigate the damage, but this process becomes nearly impossible if the trauma continues. Ongoing exposure weakens and diminishes cognitive capacities and abilities. And since the brain is connected to everything, damaging the brain can lead to a terrifying array of conditions and disorders.
We know multiple concussions are bad, but that’s why protocols exist, right?
When you’re talking about subconcussive exposure, current protocols fail. Protocols are designed to manage existing trauma. They do not prevent the initial injury, nor can they prevent repetitive subconcussive injuries. And it’s important to remember, the neurological conditions and disorders linked to repetitive collisions have no cure. Ask someone suffering from a neurodegenerative condition about their symptoms and the available treatments. Prevention must become a priority.
What about kids who are “built for football”? You want to keep them from a scholarship or a shot at the NFL?
No teacher wants fewer options for students, but does this mean we should deliberately put developing brains into no-win situations? If a young person wants to pursue a hazardous career where repetitive brain trauma is unavoidable, there are plenty of ways to prepare through more inclusive school sports. The job of professional educators is to develop brains, not damage them.