Here is another story about a young adorable smiling teenager struck down trying to make a touchdown. Although the exact circumstances of Damon Janes’ death this past Monday are not known, it is another loss of life to a mere kid who was “just” playing the game he loved.
As pointed out in a Village Voice blog post about the teen’s death, more than ten kids have died while playing football in the last ten years. And while the country is reeling from the NFL lawsuit and from weekly concussions that bench the pros, one has to ask whether enough is being done on the playing field to recognize and respond to head injury in young athletes. What may be most disturbing is that some of these deaths have undoubtedly been preceded by “sub-concussive” blows or concussions that have gone unrecognized only to be followed by a lethal condition called Second Impact Syndrome. In SIS, an apparently “light” hit may set off a deadly cascade of events in the brain if the conditions are right. These conditions include young age and possibly undiagnosed and relatively minor head injuries in the days or possibly weeks prior to the fatal blow.
What to do? Change the way football is practiced and played. Recognize a blow that may be hiding a potential brain injury. Respond to such hits with a time out and an assessment of the situation by someone trained to know what he or she is looking at. The next step is to Rest the athlete, maybe as much as a week or ten days before Reassessing. Some cannot go back, maybe ever. This is a reality that kids, parents, coaches, agents, and schools need to face up to.
How many more senseless deaths do we need to catalogue (this is the second one this month I have learned of on Twitter and from my Google alerts) before real change starts to happen? Should kids be playing sports like gladiators? It’s time to man up and take stock. When do we stop sacrificing our kids to the game?