Bits & Pieces: Concussions in youth athletics can no longer be ignored

All of the negative stories that are now appearing about the health hazards relating to concussions could have a major effect on youth football here and nationally. Parents are not going to be that willing to let their kids play a sport that could leave them as mushrooms later in life. Those parents who were on the "maybe" side of the ledger will probably now shift to "definitely no."

As an example of the negative articles about football and concussions, I point to the latest article called "League of Denial" in the Oct. 7 issue of Sports Illustrated written by Mark Fainaru-Eada and Steve Fainaru. This article reveals how the NFL leadership simply looked away when it came to concussions. Sounds familiar? Baseball didn't exactly leap into the steroid situation until it was way too late. According to the article, in 1994, the commissioner of the National Football League — Paul Tagliabue — "essentially said that the league did not have a concussion problem."

Tagliabue dismissed the matter as "a pack journalism issue" and claimed that players had one concussion every three of four games. We know now that was a lot of bunk.

Now we have former players walking around in some sort of vegetative state. Some say that is the price of playing football. They were well paid and they knew what they were getting themselves into. But did they really?

When I was young, concussions were not well known. When a ballplayer was hit in the head and came off the field, he was given some smelling compound and told to "shake it off" and get back in there. Where did those lasting headaches come from and what is this aversion to brightness? Nobody knew then and few cared. We simply had no answers. But we apparently have them now.

I listened to talk radio for the past couple of weeks, particularly when concussions were the topic of discussion. Parents — male and female — were calling in stating that they would not allow their child to play football. What about other contact sports then? Football was all they talked about.

Will the number of kids playing football drop off? We really don't know at this point. After all, football is still America's favorite sport and kids want the glamor and the attention that football brings more than any other sport.

Still, I will assume that more articles, studies and analysis will be coming out in the next weeks, months and years, and probably much will be made of the dangers of playing football. This should be a hot topic for years to come.

In search of information

I want to personally thank the Columbia Rotary Club for being a gracious host when I appeared as a guest speaker last Tuesday evening. Not only did I renew some old acquaintances, but I found all of the members to be a delightful audience. The Columbia Rotary Club has made, and is continuing to make, significant contributions to the wellbeing of our community. I felt that it was a distinct honor for me to address them.

I am asking anyone who has information on the Columbia Optimist Club and its relationship to sports in our community to please contact me. Essentially what I am looking for is the history of the club, its officers, years of existence and any other appropriate information out there. I worked with many of the great people of that club and unfortunately too many of them have passed on. The Columbia Optimists were a great organization in terms of sports programs here, and I would like to get as much info as possible on the people and their contributions.

I am also looking for info on the Columbia Youth Baseball Association. I managed in it for one year before moving over to the writing side of things. Any information on both programs would be gratefully appreciated.

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