Since college, I've had a certain distaste for football. I was an academic, struggling by on a measly academic scholarship, staying up late at night studying, and earning a 4.0 grade average. All because I love learning. (Nerd.) I watched my neighbors, the freshman football team, living it up on their football scholarships. One bought a new car. Another was paid to take out new recruits to the strip-club. I ate ramen. When my psychology club was denied pep-club status and related monies, I wrote an editorial in the school paper about how academic clubs exude just as much school spirit as athletic clubs. I wondered, aren't universities in existence for education and not for sports? Aren't sports just an extra-curricular in the institutions of learning? I began to resent those football players, coveting their scholarships, tutors, and care-free attitudes.
Then, I married a football player. Hubby played college football and is the ultimate football fan. During football season, we (okay, he) watches football almost every night of the week. College, pros, high school, reruns, any and all football. He participates in at least three Fantasy Football leagues a year. I've tried to lose my poor attitude toward football and have watched an occasional game and even joined a Fantasy league. I picked all my players based on character rather than skill and did pretty darn good. Anyway, I still am not the biggest fan.
Recent research has found the presence of cognitive impairment in high school football players, even if they have never been diagnosed with a concussion. If these impairments begin as young as high school, just imagine the accumulated damage done to the professional athlete's brain.
This is no joke to me. I can't disregard this information and carelessly "charge it to the game." As a psychologist, I know the seriousness of brain injury. My distaste for football has grown. Even my football fanatic hubby has shared his hopes that Jr. will choose to participate in a safer sport. I'm afraid, still, that Jr. won't be able to resist the lure of football. Shoot, we live in Texas. Football is everywhere. And, doesn't our culture idolize football players? Furthermore, we teach our young men that the way to be successful is through their athletic prowess rather than their brains. It is more likely for men to obtain scholarships for sports than for academics. So, what's a young man to do? Play football? I hope not.
Today, I hear that my favorite NFL quarterback (and I know, like, three of them), Drew Brees, is helping support the PACE program — Protecting Athletes through Concussion Education. Not only does PACE work to raise awareness of concussions and how to recognize, identify, and treat them, they also provide free concussion testing for middle and high school sports teams. Parents, athletes, coaches, teachers and anyone who wants to sign their school up can log onto dickssportinggoods.com/PACE to receive the free testing.
I guess I feel a little better about the possibility of Jr. playing football with programs like this in place. If he chooses to play football, we are going to be using the heck out of PACE!