Joseph Charney was back for round two.
A year ago, the South Pasadena resident came before the Board of Education sharing his concerns about the effect of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) on those who play tackle football.
With Zahir Robb and Ruby Kalra new to the school board, Charney figured he was reaching parts of a critical new audience when he talked about the dangers of the sport, specifically head injuries, during public comment at the February 12 meeting at the South Pasadena Unified School District headquarters.
Charney told the board he’s been in contact with South Pasadena Unified School District Superintendent Geoff Yantz regarding the issue.
“He advised me a seminar is given each year to coaches, players and open to parents, that details the dangers of sports,” explained Charney of his conversation with Yantz. “In that seminar I’ve been told that the dangers of concussion and CTE are discussed. While I have reviewed material pertaining to concussion identification and medical protocol, I haven’t seen any material that relates specifically to CTE.”
On Monday, Yantz said the district appreciates Charney’s concern and suggestions for the health and safety of students who participate in competitive sports. “South Pasadena High School provides all student athletes, coaches, and parents with necessary information and safeguards before each sports season,” said the superintendent. “We also partner with the College of Health and Human Services within Cal State LA to provide a quarterly Concussion Education Workshop, led by a professor, which includes details on how to prevent, identify, and treat concussion symptoms and CTE. In addition, the district has hired an on-site athletic trainer to attend the more physical sporting events who is able to quickly respond to any injuries and to assist in effective rehabilitation.”
Charney said he attended the Board of Education meeting for the second straight year “to argue that this board has a duty to edify the parents of those boys who intend to play football, as well as the athletes themselves, to the additional and independent risk of CTE – that tackle football presents.”
He says before a student is permitted to play tackle football at South Pasadena High the following recommendations be followed:
- A student and his parent/guardian would be required to review objective and comprehensive information (preferably by video) describing the disease CTE (cerebral traumatic encephalopathy) and how it can be caused by repetitive head impact, as such occurs with tackle football. The video would explain the differences between the dangers of concussion injury and CTE disease, specifically that a serious concussion can be a one time clearly noticeable event, while the consequence of repetitive impacts is often hidden for many years.
- After reviewing the material, the parent/guardian and the player must both sign documents in the presence of school personnel acknowledging that they have understood the potential danger of CTE and choose to proceed with playing.
Charney sent a link to board members of what he calls “a powerful” podcast by Malcolm Gladwell entitled “Burden of Proof.”
In it Gladwell, noted Charney, warns that the dangers of CTE shouldn’t be denied, “…as was the case in the last century of tragically denying that coal dust caused black lung disease and that cigarettes caused cancer,” he explained. “We shouldn’t have to meet a beyond a reasonable doubt burden of proof before we warn our students and parents of the potential brain disease that tackle football can bring about.”
He insisted the board not to delay its warnings about CTE. “I urge the board, as I did last year, to do move forward on this before next season,” said Charney.
The CTE issue came up during public comment of the meeting and couldn’t be discussed by school board members because it was not placed on the agenda.
Football and the dangers of head injuries has become a hot topic in recent years. The NFL has faced criticism for hiding the short-and long-term risks of concussions and repeated head injuries from players.
According to the National Center for Health Research, studies have found high rates of concussions, traumatic brain injuries, and can have terrible debilitating effects. The NFL changed certain rules to make play safer, but how effective have the rule changes been? What are the implications for high school and college students who play football?
To make play safer for NFL player, the league has changed several rules. Kickoffs have moved from the 30-yard line to the 35-yard line and touchbacks from the 20-yard-line to the 25-yard line. The league seeks to reduce injuries by disqualifying players who exhibit poor sportsmanship and dangerous conduct.
Implemented is the crown-of-the-helmet rule, which penalizes defensive players or offensive ball carriers who initiate contact with the top of their helmet.
As studies continue regarding the effect of CTE on those who play tackle football, Charney can see the day when the sport, which features the Super Bowl, the country’s biggest game, go by the wayside.
“Yes, absolutely,” said Charney a year ago when asked if he could seen the sport disappear someday. “There will be no football played this way.”