"How little we know" is a song sung by the legendary Frank Sinatra. Of course Frank was only singing about the "lover to lover complications", not the muddled issues of today. Lately, I have been questioning what little we do know. I once coached a professional football player who asked so many questions his teammates called him "Science". Maybe "Science" was onto something. I am continually questioning how we can best insure the safety of our youth. One thing that is unquestionable, I pledge to you:
"At AYF/AYC nothing is more important than the SAFETY OF A CHILD."
Sports injuries grab the spotlight especially when they are graphic. Take for instance the mass media drama that ensued at the NCAA basketball championships following Kevin Ware's broken leg. I sincerely hope there can be some way to prevent this in the future. AYF continues to research, educate, and activate best practices to protect our kids. Injuries are difficult to witness in any sport.
Also difficult to witness is the legal battle by the NFL in the courts. The doctors who want to eliminate youth football are now being questioned as to their motives. Their "nuke em' all" type solution to youth football is beginning to ring hollow as the same doctors were recently accused of siding as witnesses for where the dollars are. Deion Sanders and Hershel Walker are being called traitors for saying that there could be life style causes of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE beyond playing football. My former player "Science" would ask many questions to determine what is the scientific evidence and what are the motives of those speaking out publicly?
Let's leave the NFL's billion-dollar debate and understand that the difference between youth football and the NFL is like comparing a senior Sunday driver to a NASCAR Driver.
Forgive the personal reference, but I know something about concussions. I experienced many concussions while serving as the Captain of Harvey High School and Miami University football teams. I remember when the Purdue University football players pushed me out of their huddle; I had unknowingly joined them because I was disoriented after making a jarring tackle. My old teammates even today have total recall of that incident and never fail to remind me that "Mighty Joe" got his bell rung.
As President of American Youth Football and Cheer, I am weary from being misquoted in media interviews by reporters who have predetermined conclusions. I wish we could prevent every child from suffering an injury. But, like that senior Sunday driver, being too cautious can result in injuries also. Not allowing a child to play supervised sports may be too cautious. Football ranks fifth in injuries sustained among organized sports participants. Free play is the major cause of injuries in every age group. I would rather have my children play football than skateboard down a stair railing.
AYF has a real safety strategy and it is not smoke and mirrors for media consumption.
- We review research from Sadler Sports injury reports and continually follow The Center of Disease Control and the Associations of Neurology for the latest developments.
- We educate AYF Coaches to employ "Tackle Safe" developed by Erine Cromwell of the NFLPA Safety Committee and NFLPA favorite School of the Legends.
- We promote Safety best practices by the teaching of safe fundamentals and techniques.
- We alert parents, coaches, officials and teammates to recognize the symptoms of a concussion so that the player is removed from play until he has time to safely recover.
Most states are implementing laws about players needing a doctor's written consent to return to play. My two favorite doctors, Sanja Gupta and Dr Oz collaborated on this subject in a recent TV broadcast. Both doctors played football and mentioned the values they learned by participating in football. Their findings appear to validate what AYF has been promoting all along. Once a diagnosis had been made, the player must take at least two weeks before returning to play.
Interesting advice to parents from both doctors was a recommendation that players take supplements of Omega 3 daily. The Doctors provided some sound advice - repetitive head blows must be prevented - helmets should not be used as weapons - practices should involve teaching techniques not full contact scrimmages.
A surprising note made by both doctors with regards to head injuries was their warning against extensive cell phone use - especially by young children whose undeveloped skulls do not protect against the radiation the phones generate. The seldom-read instructions included when purchasing a cell phone warn against carrying the phone close to the body. The Scientific findings are only based on the past ten years of cell phone use. The doctors agreed that more valid scientific research should cover at least thirty years before reaching a conclusion. Let us assume there is a risk and reduce cell phone use. My former player "Science" would then ask the question how much research is available on CTE and concussions? We need conclusive scientific research on football safety to insure injury prevention practices. You know Frank Sinatra was called The Chairman of the Board and he sang, "How little we know".