Any body in motion is of course susceptible to injury. We human beings hurt ourselves walking into doors, stepping on an escalator or casting a fishing line. You’ve probably seen such examples on Facebook and YouTube.
Stanford University School of medicine scientists are in the middle of a study regarding an injury-prone activity that America, especially the south, widely adores — football.
The 2015 movie Concussion told the true story of Dr. Bennet Omalu who brought to national attention his findings showing professional players suffered chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) after repeated blows to the head, with symptoms ranging from memory loss to suicide — namely the suicide of former Chicago Bears defensive back Dave Duerson, who literally sent texts saying his brain should be examined for CTE damage before he shot himself.
College players have also been found to contract CTE, but in the panhandle, we care more about high school football.
Concussions aside, football is first by far in high school injuries. A University of Colorado Denver study found, among the 8,682 overall total injuries for the 2017-18 season, 3,066 of them were in boys’ football. The second highest was girls’ soccer with 664 injuries.
While parents may find this to be some scary information, a healthline.com article said better medical treatments and injury-prevention programs are keeping those football injury numbers from increasing drastically and reducing their severity.
Coming back to Stanford, researchers have been tracking how hits to the head cause concussions to young players. They conducted the research during last season at three high schools and will continue into the 2019 season — the purpose to determine what hits cause concussions to ultimately help teach athletes how to play as safely as possible.
I’m also heartened by some sports alternatives in northwest Florida.
Lacrosse is gaining a foothold in Santa Rosa County, following its neighbors to the east and west. Now lacrosse isn’t a leisurely game of chess, of course, but that same UC Denver study that reported 3,066 football injuries also reported 317 boys lacrosse injuries, 146 for the girls.
Speaking of girls, we come full circle to possibly the newest sport in the Panhandle — flag football.
Pace High’s program kicked off with a bang in its preseason posting victories against Gulf Breeze and Navarre, 32-0 and 28-7 respectively.
The sport is older in Okaloosa County. Four schools fielded teams in 2014 and the league has doubled since then.
Flag football, if it isn't obvious, has no tackling. Players wear a pair of flags on a belt opposing players pull instead of tackling. I’m making an assumption here, but presumably some sports education higher-ups decided girls should play flag instead of tackle football, because — surprise, surprise — it’s safer.
Flag football still has the potential for amazing runs, long passes and unbelievable catches. It just may not make the highlight reels of brutal hits. So let me pose a radical suggestion: Rather than give girls the safer sport because they’re “more delicate,” let’s give everyone the safer sport because we care about our kids.
Of course, I know the “electable” option is examining tackle football to strike a balance between the physical game fans love and the long-term damage players can suffer — so kudos to Stanford and any other organizations working to make sure boys don’t get their Friday night lights knocked out.
Aaron Little is the editor of the Santa Rosa Press Gazette and the Crestview News Bulletin. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.