Tackling concussion concerns head on

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By Marty Farmer

Staff Reporter

Tyrell Gaylord is 10 years old and he loves playing football. Ask him his position and school and he proudly fires back, "running back and backup cornerback, Havlicek School," with the same alacrity that NFL players pronounce during their popular "background intros" of NBC's Sunday night games. A far cry from the bright lights of the NFL, however, Tyrell plays for the Featherweight Pac 10 team within the Oak Park River Forest Youth Football program. The OPRFYF is an organization that currently boasts 11 teams with approximately 220 players (ranging in age from 6 to 14). The children are primarily from the Oak Park and River Forest area.

A few weeks ago, Tyrell was ostensibly immersed in one of those glorious gridiron moments. He broke free from the line of scrimmage and was headed for a touchdown. With paydirt in his sights, he was pulled down by a defender from behind. Tyrell suffered a concussion. Plenty of gain with pain encapsulated the concerning moment on the football field.

"I was nervous that I wasn't going to play again," he said. "The trainer asked me some questions. When I didn't answer them, he said maybe I had a concussion. I went to the doctor to take a concussion test. At first, I didn't do well so I sat out for a few weeks."

After plenty of rest and obtaining a medical green light from a doctor, Tyrell rejoined his teammates on the field a few weeks after his concussion. He hasn't skipped a beat.

"I just like playing football. It's fun to tackle and I like the hitting [in football]," he said.

When Tyrell suffered his concussion, no one was more concerned for his well-being than his father, Tyrone Gaylord, who also coaches his son's squad within the OPRFYF. The aforementioned precautions assuaged Tyrone's worries in relatively short order.

"Like any parent, I was concerned about my son's health but the concussion wasn't from head-to-head contact," he said. "He hit his head on the ground. Tyrell spent a few weeks off to rest and recover, took concussion baseline and cognitive tests and passed those protocols. Even after passing those checkpoints, we still held him back from contact and just started with some light running.

"During the entire process, we elected to error on the side of caution. When I was growing up, there were no doctors or trainers on the sidelines of games. As a coach, I feel relieved knowing we have medical professionals at games to diagnose any injuries."

Like Gaylord, Rebecca Hachem is a parent of an OPRFYF player, actually two. Her twin sons, Elias and Julian, are in their third year playing football within the Little Huskies. OPRFYF is a member of The Chicagoland Youth Football League, the largest youth football league in America.

"I think the OPRFYF is as safe a program as there is out there," Hachem said. "The kids' weights, ages and skill levels are all factored in to make sure they are put in the proper level. I really like that plus the baseline concussion testing."

According to the league's registrar, Chris Guillen, there have been just a few concussions among the 220 players and 11 teams this season.

"Through roughly seven weeks which accounts for 77 games plus 50 practices, we've had four diagnosed concussions," Guillen said. "Those players went through the baseline testing protocols and were subsequently allowed to practice only after passing the baseline test again, being cleared by a physician and then eased into the practice regimen."

OPRFYF calls on a multi-pronged approach to foster player safety including the following: top of the line equipment including Riddell helmets (which are checked/replaced every other season), certified training for coaches via USA Football's Heads UP program, players/parents feedback, a league-mandated trainer on the sidelines at every game, along with medical input and presentations to players and parents from Dr. Romano along with Dr. Gail Rosseau, a neurosurgeon for the NorthShore University Health System. Rosseau lives in River Forest.

"My son, Brendan, played in the Little Huskies program and then three years for the OPRF football team," Rosseau said. "As a daughter, mother and wife of a football player, I'm happy to help the OPRFYF and the TCYFL in any way I can. Typically, I speak before the start of every football season, and in other sports, to provide information for coaches and athletes on how to recognize, prevent and also conduct in dealing with concussions."

Rosseau mentioned the importance of The Zackery Lystedt Law. The law, known by other names as well, is nearly universal within the United States. It says that youth sports requires medical clearance of athletes suspected of sustaining a concussion, before sending them back in a game, practice or training sessions. The new law is the most comprehensive return-to-play law in the United States for athletes under 18. In 2006, Lystedt suffered multiple concussions during a junior high school football game, resulting in severe brain trauma. More than 3.5 million sports-and-related concussions occur each year in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We're certainly aware and sensitive to the severity of concussions," Guillen said. "Knee and ankle injuries are probably the most common ones by far in our league. As a league representative of the TCYFL, I hear a lot of stats and 80 percent of the injuries are not concussions. Our focus is to minimize injuries of all kinds as best we can."

Concussions have become quite a hot-button issue around the country.

Interestingly enough, former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner and the fathers of other current NFL signal-callers like Tom Brady and the Manning brothers (Peyton and Eli) aren't particularly fond of tackle football for younger children.

On his website, Warner addressed his concerns with the following thoughts: "I am constantly concerned about my kids and the violence of the game of football. I worry about them suffering head trauma and developing any long-term issues as a result of that injury. So yes, I love this game and all the things that it taught me and afforded me along the way, but regardless of all that I have a responsibility to my kids. I cannot be oblivious to the risks of the game of football simply because it was good to me.

While former NFL quarterback Archie Manning didn't forbid his famous sons, Peyton and Eli, to play tackle football, the boys opted for backyard or flag football. In seventh grade, they joined their first organized tackle league.

Archie Manning said in an interview: "God, that's a great game. I wish I played my whole career in flag football,"

With so many stats and figures, pro and con, finding the truth about concussions can be kind of like deciphering a debate between a Democrat and a Republican. Regardless, open discourse raises awareness.

"I love that fact that there's more social and media awareness about concussions," said longtime OPRFYF football coach Elbert Reniva, "but I don't like how it's focused only on football.

Hachem added:mI think some of the information about concussions you read is overblown and sensationalistic.

Dan Reinhardt, who serves as the vice president of the OPRFYF board along with coaching and managing equipment responsibilities, believes the combination of improved coaching, excellent equipment and medical personnel on site ensure a fairly safe environment for the Little Huskies.

"From a league standpoint, I'm actually overjoyed at the level of commitment regarding player safety," said Reinhardt, who played football at the University of Illinois. "Our league has really bought into Heads Up teaching concepts with USA football to foster player safety. We teach these kids the proper techniques of tackling. It's all about stopping the progress of the football and not making a big hit on your opponent."

The impact of the OPRFYF certainly is being felt at the high school level in town. Guillen estimated that 18 of the 22 starters on the OPRF varsity football team played for the Little Huskies. "We had all those guys, [OPRF players] Jamal Baggett, Simmie Cobbs and Andre Lee," Reniva said. "I see them around town, they say hello and ask about Little Huskies. Our younger players aspire to be like them one day."

Email: marty@oakpark.com Twitter: @OakParkSports

Reader Comments

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Mark Michaelsen from Rossmoor  

Posted: December 5th, 2013 6:14 PM

Reality check on tackle football people. All three of my sons played tackled football starting at age 7. This past Fall my middle son opted out of tackle at age 11. While playing flag football he sustained not one but two concussions and is now suffering from Second Impact Syndrome. No school (Cognitive rest) and no sport for four months. This is NON CONTACT flag football. No blocking or screening. I played soccer and football and I guarantee you I sustained more MTBIs in soccer.

Football Player from Oak Park  

Posted: October 31st, 2013 12:45 AM

@ Uncommon, The benefits of driving a car out way the risk of injury. We make those decisions. If you think brain damage is okay for your kid, your decision. I will watch out for your kids playing in the street...

Football Player from Oak Park  

Posted: October 31st, 2013 12:41 AM

@Uncommon, YOU obviously missed the point. Football has so many more brain hits than any other sport. You have hitting drills every day. They don't have to be helmet to helmet shots. Brain Damage is occurring whether you believe it or not in football. There is no way you can compare the brain hits in football to any other sport. We are not talking about quadriplegic injuries. Pay attention.

tlg32 from oak park  

Posted: October 24th, 2013 10:47 AM

Well youth boxing is less popular because the sport is less popular. If you look there are lot of kids taking up MMA because it a more popular sport. If you go to an mma gym they are packed. Also football is the most popular youth sport with over a million youth players from the stats i have read, followed by basketball, baseball, then track. And it doest matter if collision are accidental or on purpose. The point is kids get hurt in all sports dont ignore it for everything but football

Let's All Take A Deep Breath  

Posted: October 23rd, 2013 6:29 PM


More Progressive Than Progressive from Oak Park  

Posted: October 23rd, 2013 2:59 PM

I don't let my boys play football, or any sport for that matter. They are perfectly happy playing with Ken dolls instead.

OP Transplant  

Posted: October 23rd, 2013 2:16 PM

Basketball and bicycling both sent more kids to the ER. Keep in mind though, that nearly every kid rides a bike, and basketball has leagues for both boys and girls. Football is played by fewer kids and still ranks third. And, in basketball and cycling, collisions are accidental, not intentional. When and where I grew up, youth boxing was still popular. Much less popular now. Why?

tlg32 from oak park  

Posted: October 23rd, 2013 10:44 AM

@OP Transplant from reading your own article http://www.divinecaroline.com/life-etc/friends-family/ten-most-dangerous-sports-kids football is not the most dangerous sport. And if you look at that list it has pretty much every major sport. Every sport has inherent dangers that come with them. You just have to find the right program to make sure they teach the kids properly and reduce the risk. Football played the right way is a great sport.

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: October 22nd, 2013 3:40 PM

I don't particularly care for football, but I also won't let helicopter parent hysterics prevent any child of mine from playing (or any other sport activity) if that is what they want to do. Something as simple as driving is exponentially more dangerous than playing football, yet you do that everyday without all the worrying.

OP Transplant  

Posted: October 22nd, 2013 2:42 PM

Again, I'll point out that there's a lot of room between putting your child in a bubble and signing him up for the sport identified as the most dangerous. I keep hearing, "Oh, well. Since I can't keep my kid 100% safe, I might as well sign him up for the single most dangerous sport." Like there are only those choices. Just be honest enough to admit that you're willing to overlook the increased risk of injury, because it's that important to you that your kid play football.

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: October 22nd, 2013 2:27 PM

OPT, something like 2 million people are injured in auto accidents every year. 35,000 deaths. I take it you are going to be giving up your car as well? Maybe force your kids on the bus? Oh wait, 17,000 kids go to ER annually from being injured on school buses, I guess your lil precious is going to have to walk. You can't live life in a bubble is the point and reading too much into stats will make you worry way too much.

OP Transplant  

Posted: October 22nd, 2013 2:18 PM

I'm pretty risk averse where my children are concerned. Given the number of sports and activities available to kids, I would prefer that they not choose the one identified as causing the most injuries. How often do we look at a number of choices for our children, and choose the most dangerous one?

OP Transplant  

Posted: October 22nd, 2013 2:15 PM

"This sport sent more than 418,200 kids to the ER. Sports injury statistics vary based on methodology, and the Center for Injury Research and Policy found football to be the leading cause of sports-related injuries among kids." (http://www.divinecaroline.com/life-etc/friends-family/ten-most-dangerous-sports-kids)

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: October 22nd, 2013 1:20 PM

Freak accidents will happen, but that does not mean they are the norm or everyone should freakout that the next tackle little Harrison takes is going to leave him a quadraplegic. Use safety gear and teach the kids not to take unnecessary risks and proper techniques. The entire sport should not be revamped because .000001% have some injury.

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: October 22nd, 2013 1:17 PM

OPT, you are missing the point. No activity or sport is completely safe. Everything has risks. While there is risk of injury in football that are probably higher than say volleyball, statistically, the risk of such injury is still extremely low. I raced motocross as a teen and broken bones and concussions were common. However, you just dealt with the risk and some kids were seriously injured, however in the universe of participants, the number of serious injuries was insignificant.

OP Transplant  

Posted: October 22nd, 2013 1:12 PM

The jump from "no sport is 100% safe" to "I'm going to put my kid in the sport that causes the most traumatic brain injuries" is a big one.


Posted: October 22nd, 2013 8:01 AM

Opt please list the sports that are 100% safe for kids to play. The brick chucking sounds like a great agility drill thanks for the idea. There is risk in everything you do. You can get into a car accident going to a piano recital. Oh and that Atlantic monthly article is just another scare headline. You could insert soccer or backyard trampolines in the headline and it would read the same.

OP Transplant  

Posted: October 21st, 2013 3:24 PM

Yeah, PG, because the only two games kids can play are tackle football and tiddlywinks, right? Look, guys, I don't care if you take your kids out behind the garage and chuck bricks at them. Just spare me the "football is safe" crap. There's a lot of evidence that says tackle football isn't a safe game for young kids. You feel the need to ignore evidence and have your kids play tackle football, go for it.

Parental Guidance from Oak Park  

Posted: October 21st, 2013 2:56 PM

Egads! I am pulling my dearest Percival out of his American tackle football youth club immediately. I was considering tiddlywinks as a viable alternative, but I concluded the winks present too much of a choking hazard.


Posted: October 21st, 2013 1:54 PM

OP Transplant - had hoped the back and forth had stopped after a day of no posts but have to respond. That ENTIRE section of my post regarding "red meat", etc. was just me trying to "lighten" the banter. Did I really sound that SERIOUS when you read that. I was joking and playing to the "stereotype" that I felt you had of me and other "football people." Apparently I was accurate due to your response....


Posted: October 21st, 2013 11:32 AM


OP Transplant  

Posted: October 21st, 2013 11:25 AM

Brian-The article is about youth football, not a "multi billion dollar sport." Youth football is a form of play for children. I don't get this nonsensical, macho posturing about knowingly exposing children to brain injury as a form of play. Mike's comments below about eating "red meat" and liberals getting their "panties in a wad" gives a little insight into the mind of a youth football dad.

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: October 19th, 2013 10:21 AM

@FBPFOP: I am not taking any risk with my kid, because my kid does not play football. I leave the choice of risk taking to the parents of kids who will or will not play football. I let you choose. I let the other side choose.

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: October 19th, 2013 10:15 AM

@FBPFOP: My kids don't play football. Matz is the example I used to support the anger issue for some kids to drop out to a destructive life style. A written disclaimer, presently used by someone wishing to ride horses, sky dive will be used in football, which is a multi billion dollar sport. Time will tell the course of history. I bet on the power of money, not that I like it. Again, I want blind blood and dna tests on football survivors to find why some died and some thrived.

warren moon  

Posted: October 19th, 2013 8:15 AM

@fbpfop you can't be serious. When my child takes elbows to the head in b-ball ill take him out, yeah right. When soccer coaches throw balls at kids heads... I think you are full of it. Why are you so mad about your football days, if you actually played. Don't you realize kids are rough and tumble and hit their heads all the time. We should ban all playing if hitting your head is the end all. Good luck to you in life, you need some positive vibes for real.

Tom from Chicago  

Posted: October 19th, 2013 6:20 AM

Did you happen to miss the nationally well respected Neurologist sited in the story whose son plays football and has for years? I am assuming that you all know more than she does? In regards to increases in diagnosed head injuries, do you really think a doctor in today's litigious society is going to tell a kid that is brought to him that he is fine. Today, in football, if you say "I hit my head", you will be diagnosed with a head injury and out of football for at least a week.

Football Player from Oak Park  

Posted: October 18th, 2013 11:19 PM

Do you think most neurologists are just saying not to play football because they are over cautious? Anytime your helmet hits a helmet, hits a knee, hits a shoulder pad, hits a forearm, hits a leg, hits the ground, it is like taking a punch to the head but without the mark on the face or head (thanks to the helmet). This is something you do not want to happen to your child (6-8 thru college) because the forces of the hits just ramp up. Your brain does not get stronger in resisting theses forces.

Football Player from Oak Park  

Posted: October 18th, 2013 11:10 PM

@Brian, so you are willing to take that risk and hope your kid is not one that is affected by repetitive head shots causing permanent brain damage? I will not. You lost me on this Dave Matz guy--a missed how this is part of the discussion. Football will be banned from schools before you think. Clubs will start but they will not thrive. Insurance will be so costly. The NFL knows it is playing now on borrowed time. There will be extreme liability.

Football Player from Oak Park  

Posted: October 18th, 2013 11:00 PM

@Mike, The Frontline show even had a high school kid who died and had developed brain damage so it happens to kids under 18. Talk with any Neurologist. They will say Football and soccer are very dangerous. I would take their advice about brain trauma, would you? Mike, where'd you go? How you defend your kid doing something that is known to damage their brain? @I'm A Really Good Parent, be a rebel and don't buckle your kids up in your car, you pansy!

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: October 18th, 2013 10:52 PM

@FBPFOP: I don't no deny that football is dangerous and kids get hurt. I don't deny that some kids and pros walk away from the sport unharmed. I ask how did one group get injured and one group did not? Dave Matz, high school drop out, was an angry young man from a wealthy but dysfunctional family who beat his girl friend to death with a golf club after sniffing fumes from spray cans,I write him in prison. Why he was so angry, even at himself, I do not know.

Football Player from Oak Park  

Posted: October 18th, 2013 10:39 PM

@ Mike, Every kid in football hit their head in practice multiple times everyday (this is from Pop Warner up--I started in 3rd grade--I know). Some did more than others. Agree? When my kid starts practicing headers in soccer, that will be the end. I am not planning out their college athletic scholarships with any sport. I would pull my kid out of baseball if they practiced taking pitches to the helmet. I would take my kid out of basketball if they practiced elbows to the head.

Football Player from Oak Park  

Posted: October 18th, 2013 10:31 PM

@Mike, I would draw the line to where my kid would not be hitting their head everyday. How about you?

Football Player from Oak Park  

Posted: October 18th, 2013 10:29 PM

@no tackling, look at the picture above. Looks like a kid is helmet to helmet in a blocking drill. All of the football proponents are in denial. Stick you head in the sand or just choose to have your kids take that risk and rationalize that it is okay. I like the rationalization of comparing it to soccer. If a head shot in football equates to a head shot in soccer, then in practice there would need to be 10 coaches constantly beaming the team with soccer balls in the head to be the same.

Football Player from Oak Park  

Posted: October 18th, 2013 10:19 PM

@Brian, love the heroin comment. If that was the case, I think your parenting in general would be in question. Interesting that you'd think that (were you left out?) Boxing used to be the biggest draw in sports before football. There is no question boxing causes brain damage. Football is next. The public and the football organizations can no longer deny it (NFL, NCAA, HS, Pop Warner, etc.) These agencies will get sued. Insurance companies will not cover teams.


Posted: October 18th, 2013 10:11 PM

FB Player from OP - You ask, "Where would you draw the line to what is safe?" I ask the same question. How far are you going to go to take all of the fun out of life. Guess you better buy the bubble for your future children. We can go round and round... we are never going to agree so lets leave it at that.


Posted: October 18th, 2013 10:08 PM

OP - You just got moronic. I don't need my kid's help in being a "bad-ass" and you obviously don't need yours to aid in being a "jack-ass." I'm just tired of your side of the argument always being pompous and demanding the infallibility of your position/thinking. Good night.

Football Player from Oak Park  

Posted: October 18th, 2013 10:05 PM

You know your kid will take shots to the head in football. If you do not realize that, you are in denial. When you understand that, you should take some responsibility to say that I do not want my kid to take deliberate knowing that it can and may cause brain damage. Do you let your kid hit head against the wall? Hitting you head (even just slightly) against the wall is the same process of hitting the ground or taking a hit in football. Where would you draw the line to what is safe?

OP Transplant  

Posted: October 18th, 2013 6:18 PM

Mike - I think you might be under the impression that having your kid play tackle football makes YOU look like a badass. It doesn't.

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: October 18th, 2013 5:31 PM

i agree with the first part of the post, not the second.


Posted: October 18th, 2013 5:24 PM

OP- my Seau statement was a "general" retort to others not you. I am done responding for now. I and my at-risk son (due to FB of course) are going to get ready to go watch some barbarians violently crash into each other under the auspices of sport. Disclaimer: we also eat red meat (gasp) and are conservatives (probably should be run out of town for that). Enjoy your PBS programming this evening. A little Downton Abbey perhaps? I'm being smart in good fun, don't get your lib panties in a wad.

OP Transplant  

Posted: October 18th, 2013 5:17 PM

Mike - The CDC numbers are national, not specific to one facility. And I never mentioned Sea; I'm talking specifically about youth sports. The CDC numbers refer to ages 10 to 14.

OP Transplant  

Posted: October 18th, 2013 5:11 PM

Brian - You can have your kid juggle chainsaws, for all I care. Just don't try to bullish_t people about how safe it is.


Posted: October 18th, 2013 5:10 PM

Sorry OP Transplant but its not scientific it is one facilities activity. Furthermore, based on this report I guess you won't be letting your children rollerskate/blade, or play baseball.

OP Transplant  

Posted: October 18th, 2013 5:10 PM

From ESPN the Magazine: "Reports of head injuries are especially on the rise. From 2001 to 2009, emergency room visits for traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) among children under 19 rose 62 percent. And football concussions reported among 10- to 14-year-olds more than doubled from 4,138 in 2000 to 10,759 in 2010, according to the CDC."

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: October 18th, 2013 5:08 PM

@ OP: And the injury factor is taken into account because of the number of children want to play, and the parents are satisfied with the chance that their child will not be injured, and there is more to gain from playing the sport than not playing the sport. What was the injury factor when football was played in the 1930s w/o pads and helmets?OP, football parents don't want you to save their kids.For now at least.


Posted: October 18th, 2013 5:07 PM

@OPTransplant - "despite being played by comparatively few..." Maybe this is the case in the greater OPRF area but it is not lacking numbers nationally. One more general statement: everyone wants to extrapolate date from veteran NFL players and project it onto lower levels. Big difference between someone who plays through 12th grade or even college and someone who spent 15 years in the NFL as a linebacker! So don't use a Junior Seau brain to justify what you let your 14 year old do!

OP Transplant  

Posted: October 18th, 2013 5:04 PM

Another excerpt: "For youth-athletes seen in the emergency room and discharged, football (29.1 percent), soccer (16.5 percent), and basketball (15.4 percent) were the most common sports responsible for TBIs. For admitted patients, the most common sports seen were football (24.1 percent), skateboarding/roller blading (16.1 percent), and baseball/softball (12.9 percent)." Okay, so not scientific enough. What does a hospital ER know about injuries.

Mike (continued from below)  

Posted: October 18th, 2013 5:00 PM

from the report: "Additionally, the Cincinnati Children's physicians noted a large spike in the volume of sports-related TBIs beginning in 2009, although it's not entirely clear why this happened. They speculate that an increase in recognition of sports-related TBIs, more coaches educating athletes and parents about concussions, or more media attention could be at least partially responsible." This is hardly the report/study to hang your argument on!


Posted: October 18th, 2013 4:59 PM

RE: TBI report - excerpt from report: "despite a large increase in the number of emergency-department visits and hospital admissions for sports-related TBIs, there was no significant change in the percentage of children admitted." This sounds like more people being vigilant and cautious. More visits probably due to extra caution since there was no increase in admittance due to the visits. Also, this is hardly a study it is the reported activity at one hospital.

Info on TBI in youth sports  

Posted: October 18th, 2013 4:52 PM


OP Transplant  

Posted: October 18th, 2013 4:45 PM

Mike - I emphasize the pads to point out that posters are being disingenuous when they claim to believe that football is a safe sport for kids, then arm their kids from head to toe. It's danger might be better illustrated by the fact that football accounts for the most TBI of any organized youth sport, despite being played by comparatively few kids.

no tackling  

Posted: October 18th, 2013 4:32 PM

I would like to add that during the little husky practices my son never practices tackling. 2 practices a week are done with cleats/helmets only, no contact. When in pads they block (heads up) but do not tackle. Practice does not consist of repetitive physical contact, most practices are to learn the plays and offense/defense strategy. Other programs might promote more contact but this particular program is as safe as it gets for full pads football.


Posted: October 18th, 2013 3:56 PM

@OP Transplant (primarily) - I was not going to comment because I could go ON and ON and ON with different retorts to many of the posts. But to OP Transplant: your entire argument seems to be that wearing pads is the primary recognition of the danger of the sport. Then what say you about RUGBY? Collision sport but NO PADS so it MUST be safe! That is just one example of the many ridiculous ones being made by many on here.

Real List  

Posted: October 18th, 2013 3:28 PM

Some of you guys are missing the point. No one wants to ban football. No one is denying injuries don't happen in other sports or when riding bicycles. But football is predicated on human-to-human contact. The experts agree that flag football at a YOUNG age is preferred. You learn most of the strategy of the game, build confidence/sportsmanship, all without the REPETITIVE physical contact when kids are at their most vulnerable stage in development. What's not to like?

OP Transplant  

Posted: October 18th, 2013 2:03 PM

No sport is free of risk from injury, but in most sports, injury-causing collisions happen occasionally and accidentally. In football, you're supposed to have collisions. Some positions are expected to have collisions on every play. Those who hit their opponents hardest are considered the best at their position. Let's not pretend we don't recognize the increased danger present in collision-based sports. If w didn't know it was dangerous, we wouldn't mandate all the protective gear.

Tom from Chicago  

Posted: October 18th, 2013 1:55 PM

Football today is literally a completely different sport than the one that Junior Seau, Dave Duerson and Mike Webster played. The hitting they did in practice, the drills they did, the way they recovered from head injuries, the equipment were all drastically different. There are now college and pro programs who don't hit all week! You can't judge the safety of the game now by analyzing people who played an entirely different game.

Tom from Chicago  

Posted: October 18th, 2013 1:50 PM

Take your kids and put them in a bubble. Make sure they never get hurt. Don't let them ride bikes because that is, by far, the highest contributor to head injuries. You can forget soccer because in youth soccer the head injuries are as bad as football. Has anyone ever asked if the NFL players in question were susceptible to depression to start with? Have you noticed they all were having financial issues? Do you know how many people have played this sport without issue?

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: October 18th, 2013 1:21 PM

2OP & parent: I agree w/ just about all you say. Is there a sport that is scratch free?I know u r both exceptional parents, make the choice. Even if football is banned at public schools, the sport will be picked up at the club level and thrive w/o schools. Athletes then wont have to maintain a grade point average.Your student will be sitting in a classroom w/a lax straight D student.Dexter Manley went thru college & didn't know how to read.Football & injury wont perish if not played in school.

I'm A Really Good Parent from Oak Park  

Posted: October 18th, 2013 1:20 PM

The risk is much too great, which is why Little Timmy is forbidden from playing football. He is also forbidden from wrestling, skiing, soccer, skateboarding, ice skating, gymnastics, diving and competitive unicycling. Too many risky opportunities for concussions. Not worth it. He's a good boy. And a happy boy.

joe from south oak park  

Posted: October 18th, 2013 1:15 PM

OP Transplant- how are you defining injury? I'd imagine that Brian Slowiak is referring to "walking away without a scratch" as an absence of long term injuries such as spinal cord, traumatic brain or repetitive concussion that causes symptoms.


Posted: October 18th, 2013 11:37 AM

A player can walk away from the football field without a scratch and still be seriously injured. Worse yet, the damage can be cumulative and show up after it is too late to do anything. This is what research is telling us. We must listen. I'm a football fan and played backyard football as a kid but don't want my kids taking that kind of risk. Nothing is risk free - but the football risks are too high for me.

OP Transplant  

Posted: October 18th, 2013 11:02 AM

Brian - I'm going to call BS on your last post. I've played football. You'd have a hard time finding a kid who has played any organized, competitive football and walked away without a scratch. To imply that injuries are uncommon in football is just not honest. The protective gear seems to imply that we know how likely injury is. The question for parents should be, should my child play a sport that has a greater or lesser chance of injury?

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: October 18th, 2013 10:31 AM

@OP Transplant: Most kids will walk away from football w/o a scratch. Few will ride away from football in a wheel chair. Chance.Nothing more. If you forbid your son to play football, and in his defiance he becomes a heroin addict to get back at you, is that a football injury? If you ban football in grade , high school college,the pro football appeal will still be w/us.Tough questions for all parents.Good luck

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: October 18th, 2013 10:25 AM

You cannot eliminate 100% of risk. Every activity has some sort of risk of injury. The best you can do is manage it properly and be aware of the potential risks. All this hand wringing over eliminating 100% of risk for every little thing be is bike riding, football, guns, cars, is just emotional BS.

OP Transplant  

Posted: October 18th, 2013 9:56 AM

We concede that youth football is more dangerous than most other sports when we require kids to wear helmets and pads. There's risk in other sports, too, but football, with lacrosse and hockey, has a lot of protective equipment because we know our kids are going to get the hell beat out of them. The question becomes, then, is it wise for kids to play sports that we know going in are this dangerous?

Brian Slowak from Oak Park  

Posted: October 18th, 2013 7:55 AM

I used the wrong word"only". While Troy is concerned about his health in the future, all labor will diminish the body, be it football all cement work. Some foot ball players have a career w/little or no after effects. Why?I am not saying the problem is not an issue. I am saying the problem is not an issue for every player.Study the genetic make up of the survivor and the injured. This genetic make up is better suited for football, this genetic is not.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 17th, 2013 11:55 PM

Brian, Troy Aikmann does address the issue of concussions in an online interview with the Sporting News. He indicates that if he had a son he would not discourage him from playing football nor would he encourage him to play either. Aikmann states that currently his own health is fine but expresses concern about a lack of reduction regarding head injuries at the high school, college and pro level. He added that he does worry about the long term health problems for current and former players. Your belief that doctors should not study the brains of dead players in order to identify the presence of CTE seems to ignore the benefits of research and scientific discovery. The notion that doctors would be able to better understand brain trauma by only examining the living certainly would not be endorsed by any recognized expert in the field.

Football Player from Oak Park  

Posted: October 17th, 2013 11:47 PM

The show mentioned that an average of 1500 brain hits a year are typical for a football player. That could easily be broken down to 13 weeks of practice, 5 days a week with 25 head jars a day (helmet hits or even hitting the ground). Sometime people get hit multiple times in on play! Then you add places where there are training camps and spring football, I don't want even one head hit for myself now let alone my children. Might as well give the kid a cigarette. Hey, they might not get cancer.

Football Player from Oak Park  

Posted: October 17th, 2013 11:45 PM

Practice is worse than games. Practice involves repetition of plays and drills and hits. Over and over, the brain collides with the skull. Some people get hit more than others. Some brains cannot take the damage as well as others. Head shots in soccer are just as bad. But at least in soccer you don't have head shots every minute.

Football Player from Oak Park  

Posted: October 17th, 2013 11:30 PM

I played football thru senior year in high school. I would ask as a parent after watching the "NFL: League of Denial" last week, why would any parent let their kid play football? There is no solution for protecting the brain. Any upper body hit, not even a head shot,will cause the head to move quickly in another direction which then causes the brain to hit the side of the skull. How do most plays end? Usually with people on the ground. Where else is it okay to continually hit people in the head?

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: October 17th, 2013 10:56 PM

The answer might be that some football players sustain injuries and survive w/o any loss. The study should be to isolate the healing capabilities of players like Troy Aikman who go on to productive lives and careers after sustaining concussions.Dont study the dead, study what makes the survivors survive isolate that physical attribute and caution people who do not have the attribute to not play football.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 17th, 2013 7:28 PM

I'm not sure there's an answer to your question but as more players donate their brains for post mortem examinaton we should learn if there is a connection. This medical examiners' study is the first of its' kind but the results obtained to date are alarming or do you really believe there's no need for concern.

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: October 17th, 2013 6:07 PM

Jim thanxs for the challenge I would ask the medical examiner how did all the other football players survive while being injured in the same manner.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 17th, 2013 5:16 PM

Brian, what did you take from medical examiner's report that found evidence of ETC in 45 out of the 46 football players brains that were tested? That's a startling high percentage. I'm not sure what is causing problems these days for Jim McMahon. He may have engaged in reckless behavior not related to football but as fan I remember him being slammed to ground by Charles Martin. He took a lot of other hard hits on the field and that was before the NFL ordered more precautions for concussed players. Not sure what your point is about Aikmann? Has he publicly expressed any opinion like those offered by Brady, Warner and the Manning brothers? Former Giants LB Harry Carson was interviewed for the documentary and shared some interesting views. There still no conclusive evidence but seems the best advice is to be cautious with younger players.

football mom from Oak Park  

Posted: October 17th, 2013 3:59 PM

There is inherit risk of injury/concussion in every youth sport. I played volleyball in MS, 2 girls collided going for the ball and both were concussed. Injuries happen. My child loves the game of football and has learned to be a team player, memorized every position, most plays and strategy( not easy!). He also knows to NEVER tackle with his head. He plays for fun, I do not expect him to play in HS or college. The youth husky program is top notch when it comes to safety

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: October 17th, 2013 3:11 PM

Watched "League of Denial". Noticed that agent Leigh Steinberg sat w/Troy Aikman in the hospital while Troy was suffering from a concussion and agent never asked Troy to quit football. Troy calls games now. Chuck Bednarchek was the last two way players w/ Browns. Never a problem. Could Jim McMahons forgetfulness have anything to do w/his jumping off a roof as a kid and beer drinking?Heard on radio a player withdrew from the civil suit when offered an NFL contract All of us heal differently.

Patricia O'Shea from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 16th, 2013 9:55 PM

I don't see any need for this sport. We'll stick to soccer etc. thankyouverymuch.


Posted: October 16th, 2013 9:14 PM

Too bad that Barwin is no longer our Village Manager - he and his son could help to address this issue: http://www.socialnewsdaily.com/17730/connor-barwin-rides-the-bus-to-philadelphia-eagles-practices/

Nik from Riverside  

Posted: October 16th, 2013 7:27 PM

Marty, great article. My son plays tackle, and has for last three years. He is 12 and this year, his weight group goes up against kids who weigh good 50 lbs heavier than him. Scares heck out of me and have been trying for awhile to get this message across to his dad. Concussions go unnoticed and boys don't always want to tell their parents they got hit. It is so important for more parents to be aware of changes in their child's behavior and moods. Thanks for article!

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 16th, 2013 4:10 PM

Actually there is some research being conducted that examines the health implications for individuals who started football activities as youngsters and continued to play through high school and college. Interesting to read the views of Tom Brady and others regarding tackle football and children. The association that represents retired NFL players has been championing the cause for increased clinical studies.

Hmmmmmm from Oak Park  

Posted: October 16th, 2013 3:40 PM

I would gather the health risks involved in playing professional football are slightly more than playing a couple of years in a youth league.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 16th, 2013 3:35 PM

Not sure you should want to crackwise about the serious health issues that many former football players are dealing with now that their playing days are over. These still relatively young men are struggling to cope with physical ailments that can be quite severe and crippling. Our own punky QB, Jim McMahon has related that he is experiencing difficulties with memory. I urge you to watch "League of Denial" or read the book. You may also want to consider donating your brain for study.

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: October 16th, 2013 3:29 PM

If we can save just one child...

Hmmmmm from Oak Park  

Posted: October 16th, 2013 3:26 PM

Obviously some level of precaution is necessary, but I am curious about any effects it has now taken on the millions of us who played Pop Warner football as kids. Decades later, are we all a bunch of drooling idiots who can't remember our own names? Or are the effects neglible?

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 16th, 2013 3:26 PM

It might be helpful for you to watch the documentaries before dismissing concerns about the risks for youth league players. The doctor selected by the NFL to study the brain tissue of deceased players, including those from both the high school and college level, stated that she would not allow her own children to participate at an early age. Would you agree that professional teams have much more experienced staff and medical personnel able to evaluate player injuries than the average youth or high school program? I guess the sensational headlines can be traced to tragic reports about Mike Webster, Junior Seau and too many other gridiron greats. There is so far no conclusive evidence that positively links chronic traumatic encephalopathy and football but studies are ongoing and are being funded by the NFL.

Real List  

Posted: October 16th, 2013 3:07 PM

Gregg's point is that there is no need for young children to play traditional tackle/helmet/pads football until they reach high school. His reasoning is pretty solid. Flag football teaches you the basics of the game without all the contact. Sure there is still the chance of injury, but the risk of head trauma is mitigated greatly. You sound like a parent who gets his jollies watching his large 10 year old plow over his under-developed opponents. Continue to experiment with your kid if you wish.

nice try Jim  

Posted: October 16th, 2013 2:47 PM

This article is about youth football not high school football or the NFL. To quote Bill Belichick "there's nothing more important to a coach than the health of his team. " The youth football coaches all feel the same way. FYI There is risk in EVERYTHING young children do. Concussions happen in baseball, basketball, ice hockey, soccer (girl's soccer ranks #2), riding a bike, on a playground, etc. Where are the sensational headlines for those activities?

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 16th, 2013 2:04 PM

WTTW presented two documentaries last Friday night on the topic of brain injuries. Please see "League of Denial" and "Football High" to better understand the risks involved especially for younger players.


Posted: October 16th, 2013 1:45 PM

"The younger a player is, the lower his odds of benefiting from football." How can you verify that? "Neither group learns much" ?? Should no child play sports until they are 10 or do only young football players not learn anything from sports until then? Will your next book be written about the high incidence of concussion in girls soccer? Maybe you should title it "Queen of Sports" soccer's impact on your daughter's brain.

Gregg Easterbrook from ESPN  

Posted: October 16th, 2013 11:26 AM

The younger a player is, the lower his odds of benefiting from football. Football at ages 10, 11 or 12 is dominated by early-maturity boys; prep and college football tends to be dominated by late-maturity boys. Because youth football is dominated by early-maturity boys, there is little relationship between who's good at age 10 or 11 and who's good as a high school senior. In youth football, early-maturity boys always outplay late-maturity boys: Neither group learns much.

Gregg Easterbrook from ESPN  

Posted: October 16th, 2013 11:23 AM

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, no one should play football in pads before 8th grade. The juvenile brain case is weak because the skull has not finished maturing and more prone to concussions and minor brain trauma that lacks immediate symptoms but does cumulative harm. Instead, have your kids play flag football until eighth grade. A good flag program teaches the basics how to be in the right place at the right time, and if children learn that by 8th grade, they have done well.

joe from south oak park  

Posted: October 16th, 2013 10:34 AM

playing football comes with some risk. I really don't think that anyone out there is going to make a helmet that is going to completely do away with the risk for concussion. That being said, it becomes a game about minimizing the risk. Making sure that players are using appropriate sized helmets is really important especially when dealing with kids. There is also the issue of equipment maintenance and making sure the air bladders are properly inflated. as far as i am aware OPRFYF is doing well.


Posted: October 15th, 2013 11:02 PM

Thank you for your contribution to make football a better game and a positive experience for all participants. Lee Becker Director, Football Safety Academy Danville Ca

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