The Personal Trainer: I’m glad my son doesn’t want to play football
by Ann Angell
Special to The Star
Sep 16, 2012 | 2874 views |  0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
As parents, we all want our kids to develop healthy habits such as exercise, whether it is from individual or group sports or whatever type of exercise they enjoy doing. After all, the obesity level in our country is an embarrassment.

But as a mom, I am a little thankful my son doesn’t want to play football.

Yes, he likes football, and we love to watch football, but lately we have been hearing so much about the effects of football injuries on our youth and on pro players that it gives me pause. Are we just now becoming more knowledgeable about this subject, or have football and other team sports become more of a free-for-all?

I guess the NFL is noticing too, because recently the league announced it would be donating $30 million to the National Institutes for Health for the study of different kinds of brain trauma, especially concussions in football players, and what happens afterward.

Researchers now know that former pro football players are often suffering from neurological damage that may result in diseases such as ALS (often called Lou Gehrig’s disease), Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s.

Of course we can get these diseases without ever having played team sports, but it seems like a pretty easy correlation to me that if your brain gets knocked around repeatedly, it may affect your long-term brain health, as in the case of Muhammad Ali.

If part of that $30 million was used to design and implement better and safer helmets for all sports to protect our kids and our pro ball players, wouldn’t that be a great step toward minimizing this problem?

It turns out that Virginia Tech scientists think so too. They recently completed a study they called the “Summation of Tests for Analysis of Risk,” or STAR ranking, on 10 types of football helmets.

They evaluated helmets that were commonly used in football, with hits from changing angles and at changing speeds, in order to replicate true hits.

The safest and best helmets, which received five stars, were the Riddell Revolution Speed, the Rawlings Quantum Plus and the Riddell 360.

Ironically, Virginia Tech’s football team was using a helmet that had one of the worst rankings. Go figure. Good thing they did the study. Maybe they will save one of their own from having a traumatic brain injury.

With football being one of the most popular sports in high school and in colleges and certainly with Southerners, we owe it to the players that provide that Friday night excitement or the great game on TV to have the best helmets.

With the suicides and depression among players and the constant problems retired that NFL players have, it should have been done many years ago.

For high schools, all teams should have clearly spelled out concussion policies, certified athletic trainers or school physicians available during practices and games, and ensure that parents are aware of concussion symptoms.

Not all concussions result in loss of consciousness. Players can feel confused, have double vision, become groggy or have nausea and headaches. We as parents can become aware and push for the safest equipment available to protect our athletes. Make sure your school has a concussion policy in place.

Ann Angell is program center manager at the Oxford Y for Now.
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