Jacquella Payne, George Zuber
Football is our nation’s biggest pastime. Unfortunately, sometimes we are more concerned with winning than the safety and long-term well-being of students on the field.
Sometimes students are sent back into the game when there is the possibility they have a concussion, and sometimes students diagnosed with a concussion are allowed to play again before they have completely healed. Evidence shows repeated concussions can cause brain damage that affects academic learning and emotional development. Hopefully, the new concussion guidelines are being followed.
I didn’t allow my son to play tackle football because I felt that the risks outweighed the benefits. He played basketball and was more of a “gamer,” so it was not a big disappointment to him.
I am not a big football fan, but I attended my children’s high school games. My daughter was in color guard and my son was in marching band, so I looked forward to halftime. When it was a championship or playoff game I got caught up in the excitement.
But I also worried about the ever-present danger to young players. However, the potential for head injuries was not of primary concern to fans in the stands, based on comments made around me.
In addition to the competiveness of the game and the excitement of potentially winning, perhaps there is something on a subconscious, primal level that makes watching people being physically aggressive toward each other during a game even more exciting.
When a serious injury occurs and 911 is called and the student is taken off the field, there’s a jarring return to reality. People think, “Oh yeah, there is a potential for serious injuries,” and they feel concern. But the game continues.
Jacquella Payne, Mountain View Teachers Association, has been a school nurse for 15 years and an RN for 32 years.
Teenagers — especially teenage boys — are naturally going to engage in activities that most of us would consider dangerous, such as skateboarding, wrestling, roughhousing, etc. Football is an excellent way to channel that energy (often fueled by increased testosterone) into an organized and supervised team-building activity.
There have been many recent rule changes in football at all levels, including the NFL, that have made the game much safer, including no helmet-to-helmet contact. All football coaches are required to take mandatory training to learn first aid and CPR, as well as how to recognize the symptoms of concussions. A mandatory doctor’s release is required when there is even a suspicion of a concussion. Football players use advanced protective equipment worth hundreds of dollars to minimize the danger, while still maintaining the physical aspects that attract them to the sport in the first place.
All sports and physical activities involve a certain level of risk, and those risks must be weighed against the benefits. Football, in my opinion, is certainly a sport with enough benefits to far outweigh those possible risks. Many coaches and players feel it is the absolute best sport for teaching life lessons such as hard work, discipline, dealing with adversity and teamwork.
Football is a great academic motivator, especially for at-risk students. Many students are working hard in school to become qualified for an NCAA scholarship by taking more challenging courses. Even though few will earn a college football scholarship, many attend community colleges to play football. When their football days are over, they have some college courses under their belt that they wouldn’t otherwise have. Football helped me get into a great college, but I think it was the discipline, work ethic and leadership skills I learned from football that have helped me the most in my career.
George Zuber, New Haven Teachers Association, has been a football coach for 17 years.
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