Our Opinion: A needed heads up for youth football


States in the South and Southwest build high school football palaces equivalent to college stadiums and ESPN builds the cult of the football star to obscene levels with its annual signing day extravaganza in which teenagers reveal their college choices to fawning peers, adults and media members. Underlying and threatening to undermine this extravagance and hero worship is the nasty issue of head injuries, which should cause parents to ask if they want their sons to be a part of this process.

This past weekend, USA Football hosted a clinic for trainers who will fan out across the nation to instruct other youth trainers in its Heads Up Football program about the specifics of concussion recognition and treatment, proper tackling techniques and other facets of head injury prevention and response. Hoosac Valley football coach Dayne Poirot told The Eagle's Christopher James (March 2) that he has talked with Berkshire Youth Football Commissioner Dan Hogan about having football coaches offer similar training to youth coaches. This is an excellent idea, as the head injury problem at the youth and high school football levels is alarming.

According to a March 1 report by Moms Team, a research source targeted for parents of children involved in youth sports, football accounts for 47 percent of the concussions suffered annually by high school athletes. The number of concussions reported is assuredly low because of the reluctance of athletes to acknowledge symptoms and the ability of coaches and trainers to recognize them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently warned about an "epidemic" of head injuries among young athletes and former Super Bowl quarter Kurt Warner has said that he finds the idea of his two sons playing high school football to be "scary."

With school athletic budgets always an issue, relatively expensive sports like football and hockey that are more likely to result in concussions than are non-contact sports will be hard-pressed to defend their existence. To even partially address the legitimate concerns of parents, athletic directors, coaches and trainers in Berkshire County and elsewhere must aggressively address the need to reduce concussions and assure that they are properly diagnosed and treated.


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