Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University and pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeye baseball team from 1971 through 1974.  He furthered his baseball career as a minor league league umpire for seven years, working in the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA).  He has written for numerous websites, and for eight years served as a regular columnist and photo editor for Gettysburg Magazine, published by Morningside Books, in Dayton, Ohio.  Widely knowledgable on that period of American History, Fulks is a frequent speaker on the Civil War at local roundtables throughout the country.  Involved with a number of writing projects, he and wife Mindy have two grown children and live in Covington, Ohio.

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Sixty days removed from the start of another prep football season, the question in many households must be addressed between concerned parents and would-be participants.  Is it safe, knowing what we know about the risk of concussions…to play football?

The proverbial “doo-doo” hit the fan this week when hundreds of former NFL players consolidated and filed a class action suit with the league over past head injuries and concussions. 

Attornies representing “the league” are claiming the suit(s) to be baseless, for lack of defining evidence.

The plaintiffs, in this case some who played ten years ago and now can’t remember what day of the week it is, say…there’s plenty of evidence.

But the issue of the evidence, like the claims of the respective parties, is a little “fuzzy”.  Everyone will wait to see how things proceed, while former players like Junior Seau take their own lives and heighten suspicion that there is a correlation between the pounding and trauma that comes with years of playing football…and issues of depression and dementia aftewards.

In the meantime, another issue…one that more than one parent must, or should, consider before the start of another prep football season, come August.  Are there actual consequences for their child wanting to play high school football, based on the evidence being presented by the two sides in the NFL suit?

Is there substance to the claims from the medical community that head trauma, though random in many cases and inexplicable, is real and an unavoidable coincidence of playing football?

In street language, is it safe to play?  Or, as with cigarettes, are you playing a game of Russian roulette, wondering “if” and “when” you become a statistical asterisk…the risk of cancer, heart disease, or other issues proven to be directly related to the practice of smoking?

I know this.  A lot of people will consider both sides and the evidence supporting the respective claims of former players and the National Football League in making a decision, as more come to light on a daily basis.  There will be a lot of publicity and passion, with focus on Seau and others like former Chicago Bear Dave Duerson, and Eagles defensive back Andre Waters.

 

"For the sake of the arguments, it puts everyone who enjoys playing such a great game at risk."

Former Bears quarterback Jim McMahon recently admitted that he no longer leaves his house alone in his car.

“Sometimes I can’t remember where I’m going,”  he said.  “It got to the point where my wife would have to call me to make sure I was OK and that I remembered what I was doing…where I was going.”

And I know this…high school football coaches are in a bad position to argue for or against the issues of football safety, particularly where it comes to issues of the head.

Many will not speak on the matter at all.  Others, who prefer to speak off the read for their opinions, claim that there’s always been a risk of injury associated with football…and that there’s a risk of concussion (and an increasing one, at that) with any sport.

“You have kids getting concussions any time there’s risk of collision during any competition,” said one recently.  “You have them  in volleyball, in basketball, in soccer, and probably in baseball or softball, I suspect.  Any sport where there’s a risk of a blow of any kind to the head.  Does that mean you sit at home and don’t leave the house, just to be safe?”

Another agrees, using the age-old assurance, “We’re doing all we can in terms of being aware of the symptoms, making sure our equipment is up to standard, and keeping players away from the game if they have a problem until they’re safe and cleared to return.  Beyond that there’s nothing more that we can do.”

Which puts a lot of people in a bind between now and the first of August.  While the kids play without fear and with an attitude of invulnerability, parents must consider the arguments and the evidence as to the safety of football.  As the game gets faster, players get bigger, stronger, and the concussive impact gets greater with each passing year, is it a risk worth taking?  Imagine the conversations around many kitchen tables between now and the start of another school year.

“Here’s another thing,”  said one Miami County coach last week.  “How do you know…when you actually have one, or when someone who’s getting their butt kicked on the field comes to the sidelines and claims to be seeing stars.  For the sake of the arguments, it puts everyone who enjoys playing such a great game at risk.”

In the meantime, now more than ever…sooner than later…we’d all like to know.  Which side do you believe?

Or, do you just sit at home!

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