In Central Massachusetts, no less than five Pop Warner football players sustained serious head trauma in one football game. In a game where coaches and parents were supposed to be looking out for their children, 3 little boys sustained concussions in just the first quarter.
Let me be clear: Pop Warner football is for young kids—technically ages 5-16, though in this particular game where five (FIVE!) children were concussed during play, all the children were under 12 years old.
HLNtv.com has the story:
By the time the Southbridge Pop Warner football team was through with the Tantasqua Pee Wees, they had scored 52 points and knocked five opposing players out of the game with concussions.
The blowout should have been stopped on several occasions, according to Pop Warner’s rules and player safety guidelines. But neither the Central Massachusetts Pop Warner referees, either team’s coach or the association officials in the stands stepped in to prevent more damage from being done.
The teams went on playing until the final whistle.
Which is too bad, because the fifth concussion occurred on the game’s last play.
While the coaches from both teams are being held responsible—suspended for the rest of the season and placed on probation for the 2013 season for not invoking the mercy rule—it becomes clear that this is just a symptom of a bigger problem we have in our society. It is a bigger problem that harkens back even to the Penn State University sexual abuse scandal where Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky used his fame and power to repeatedly rape and sexually assault young boys for what is assumed to be dozens of years. In this nation, sport is everything. No one wanted to report Sandusky to authorities because of his import to the football program of PSU. Had the cult of college football not existed, how many boys would have been spared?
On top of the power given to coaches, our boys are being taught what their real value to society is by the culture surrounding football in the USA. Being tough, powering through, manning up, and taking one for the team are all more important than the boys and men who are sacrificed for our NFL Sundays and Monday Night Football pleasures. Starting as young as 5 years old, we condition boys to believe that a head injury is really no big deal, when in truth we know that childhood concussions are a really, really big deal.
We have to ask ourselves whether we would ever allow our daughters to be beaten up like these young boys are. We have to wonder what it is about boys and young men that makes us believe they are more valuable for their bodies—which are disposable to us—than for their minds or even their inherent humanity.
As I said in a round-table discussion with three former NFL players on HuffPo Live, when we consider what should be done in the NFL to help prevent the head injuries that are causing too many senseless deaths (not to mention countless other side effects like early-onset dementia), we ought to start by seeing the inherent humanity of these young men. Each of them is a person with hopes and dreams. Each was once a little boy who probably has a family that adores him, friends who cherish him, and parents or grandparents who taught him to walk and talk and told him to eat his vegetables so he could grow up big and strong.
Once we start to see our boys and young men as something more than just muscle, meat and bone that can throw or kick a football, once we start to truly appreciate their humanity, the game will change. And this game has to change.
Would You Let Your Son Play Football? by Joanna Schroeder
Image (which is not of the teams featured in the article) courtesy of Flickr/DC DPR