This is a letter I sent to the football organization Clay played under last fall. I hope my FB friends will read this, especially if you have a son. If anything, I hope it peaks your interest and you will do your own research of the dangers of football in young children. Football is dangerous....but I am pretty sure it will not matter until it personally affects your family. I just want my opinion heard....
The Children's football program has been heavy on my heart. This is not an attack or a finger pointing letter, it prayerfully comes from a mom with a sick child. After praying about this for months and watching Clay struggle I just want my opinion heard. What readers do with it, will be up to them. I am not against kids playing football, I just want parents to make informed decisions and for precautions to be put into place in order to make the game as safe for our kids as possible.
Since Clay's concussion I have spent countless hours reading and researching concussions and more importantly second impact syndrome (SIS.) (The statistics are alarming in young children!!!!) I'm just a mom, not a physician or sports trainer. I signed my child up to play football because that is what he wanted to do. I bought a used helmet and pads. It never crossed my mind to think anything more than bruises or a possible broken bone would happen to him. The night of the concussion he asked to go back into the game. I whole heartily believe that if a teammates wonderful dad (I wish I knew his name, who used to commentate the arena football in Albany) had not told him he should sit out, we would be dealing with a completely different situation here.
Clay missed close to 5 full weeks of school and eventually went back 1/2 days until he could handle the full day. When he did make it through the full days of school he would lay on the sofa until bed time. We are still under the care of Dr. Trasmonty, in Macon, a pediatric neurologist . We go back next week for another appointment. Since the concussion, Clay has been on a low dose antidepressant which helps calm the central nervous system helping with the headaches. He has had to drop out of his challenge groups at school due to the amount of work and headaches. The harder he concentrates the more often the headaches. He has always been an A student. Now, depending on how much sleep he has and how his head is feeling his grades have slipped (which is the least of my worries.) He used to get in bed at night and read 30-40 pages in his AR book. Now, he can only read around 10 pages. To see Clay you would not see a thing wrong with him. He is non-stop motion and action, all boy and then some, riding his bike, shooting baskets, ripstiking, ziplining, climbing trees....he appears normal. But as his mom, let me assure you, he is not. He was easily upset, has trouble with focusing for long periods of time, and still has headaches and trouble sleeping.
I know this is not the worse case scenario but for us it has been a hard 5 months.
With Clay's injury the ambulance never came over, nobody called it. I was told I could take him home and 5 minutes down the road I realized how sick he was, dizzy, screaming from a headache. We went straight to the ER where he failed the cognitive test and was sent directly for an MRI. It wasn't until the next day that I found out paramedics were on sight? There seemed to be a breakdown of communication between coaches/trainers/paramedics. Again, I am not pointing a finger anywhere. I am mostly angry at myself for not insisting more be done.
Another very dangerous aspect to all of this is that the children want to play. The players "lie" and shake off their injuries so they can get back out there...play through the pain...which when you are dealing with a head injury, playing through the pain can be fatal.
I have prayerfully thought about what a mom like me can do...but I have to speak my peace. I feel so passionately that parents are not MISINFORMED but UNINFORMED and as the organization providing the activity there needs to be something changed...in my humble opinion.
My thoughts are...
A mandatory parent meeting, explaining safety equipment, getting a helmet fitted properly (not buying it off Craig's list, like we did.)
A quick explanation of concussion symptoms, how to recognize them and the fatal danger of SIS.
A paramedic always on campus during games and called for all head injuries.
The term "bell ringer" should be forever changed to mild brain injury.
If possible, there may be athlete's parents in the medical profession that could volunteer to "stand-by" at practices.
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