Football is a national pastime, but one that now carries the looming threat of traumatic brain injury. Multiple concussions may evolve into serious conditions such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and dementia, conditions that can cost thousands of dollars for care. We only need look to the NFL for examples of this.
It seems, according to recent evidence, that it is not just the linebackers, quarterbacks, tight ends or receivers being hit hard enough to sustain head trauma. It is also the kickers and punters, positions our children play during school football. It’s a well-known fact that punters and kickers regularly get flattened during the course of game play, but few people have made the connection between those hits and the risk of concussion for children on the field.
It should come as no surprise that 64 former placekickers and punters have filed lawsuits against their former teams. The claims successfully paid out cost, on average, $215,000. There is now a movement afoot in the form of Bill AB 1309, which aims to permanently bar athletes who did not play for California teams, and excludes Golden State players if they were on a team for fewer than two seasons, or played seven or more seasons on other state teams. The bill is not designed just for football players. It addresses soccer, hockey players, baseball and basketball.
The injustice of that type of bill needs to be questioned, as it bars players who played a rough game, at considerable risk, on the assurances of their coaches and owners that they would be fine with proper gear. This is clearly not so, as proven by the plethora of evidence that shows coaches and owners were aware of the damage concussions could cause, but kept playing to win.
There is a lesson inherent in this latest development of more players being at risk for brain injury, one that parents need to examine closely with an eye to protecting the fragile, growing brains of their children. We also need to be aware of whether or not coaching staff, field physicians and team owners have been negligent in terms of informing them of all the risks they face playing sports.