Jewish World Review August 15, 2001 / 26 Menachem-Av, 5761
Drs. Michael A.Glueck & Robert J. Cihak
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- If you think some football coaches are the same as you and me, we suggest you talk to a few. The sad truth is that many coaches, from high school to the big football colleges and the pros, will try to win at all costs. They're allowed -- and in some cases expected -- to do so. Why? Because it's all about winning, and winning is about money. And if somebody gets crippled or killed...well, "stuff" happens.
Let's say up front that we are not for discontinuing football or other sports because of injuries. However, as physicians, we are strongly in favor of minimizing these happenings, especially when they are preventable.
Heat related deaths, as in the case of Minnesota lineman Korey Stringer, are totally unacceptable, since they can be virtually eliminated with simple common sense precautions. Unfortunately, this latest incident is only the tip of the thermometer. We hear about it in the mainstream media only because death from a 108 degree core body temperature is so sensational and final. In the last week -- during the preparation of this column -- there are new revelations about the heat related deaths of two college and one high school student as well.
Every day during training, too many coaches push young athletes too hard, both physically and mentally. Most injuries are not reported in the daily press because they do not result in fatalities. Some coaches treat players like expendable commodities; too many players expect to be treated that way. Some players may not complain of pain, fatigue or shortness of breath because of fear of being called a "wimp," "wussie" or worse. It's pathetic that so many young men buy into a false "macho man" facade. Real warriors don't kill themselves on the training fields; they train so they can go to battle, win and survive. General Patton said, "The more we sweat in peace, the less we bleed in war." He didn't say, "let's go kill each other on maneuvers."
A relative of one of these writers was a high school quarterback 15 years ago. During a team weight lifting session, the players were strongly exhorted to top their personal best. Afterward, the QB suffered severe lower back pain. Conventional x-rays and other studies were negative. Unable to run or play, he heard insults and was called every imaginable name by the coaches, which was then imitated by the players. Three weeks later, nuclear bone and CT scans revealed multiple stress fractures of the lumbar spine. The players had the grace to apologize and wish him well. The coach never did.
Now, we hate lawsuits --- no need for one here. But perhaps the next time a player dies from heat stroke, the local DA might consider and publicly talk about filing a manslaughter charge. After all, these government prosecutors have no qualms about -- even seem to enjoy -- charging professionals such as psychiatrists and other medical specialists with malpractice or murder when they have done nothing wrong. One charge of manslaughter and this T and A -- testosterone and androgen -- laden situation would find a reasonable solution faster than Randy Moss catching a pass and running for a touchdown!
Lance Scott, a 300 pound lineman, who played two years for Arizona, three for the New York Giants, and one for New England, is sitting out this year to recover from a knee injury. Says Scott, "Sometimes the players won't tell their coaches if they are hurt or sick. However, in this case Stringer was obviously in trouble for several days and vomited the previous day. You think someone would have picked this up and had him sit out a day. After all, Stringer was an All-Pro and there was no chance of him being cut." In Stringer's case he did not suffer from the "few days to fight for a job" syndrome.
Brian E. Clark, reporter for the San Diego Union Tribune, told us, "Training kills and harms far more players than getting their heads busted -- immediately and in the long run." There are some fascinating stats about football players as a group dying early -- often in their 50's.
The "Annual Survey of Football Injury Research," 1931 - 2000, last updated March 23, 2001, is authored by Frederick O. Mueller, Ph.D., Chairman, American Football Coaches Committee on Football Injuries and Jerry L. Diehl, Assistant Director of the National Federation of State High School Associations. In this comprehensive survey, football fatalities are classified as direct and indirect:
DIRECT: Those fatalities which result directly from participation in the fundamental ACTIVITIES of football.
INDIRECT: Those fatalities which are caused by systemic failure as a result of exertion while participating in football activity or by a complication which was secondary to a non-fatal injury.
Here are some main points abstracted from Mueller's and Diehl superlative study:
He was embarrassed when he found the time to be 13.5 minutes. That left 3 hours and 46.5 minutes for players to recover between plays. Also consider that each team has units for offense, defense, kick offs, kick off return, punts, punt return, field goals, field goal defense, extra points and extra point defense. So in actuality each gladiator only plays a portion of the 13.5 minutes. This is partially because of television time-outs for endless commercials, which you don't have in high school and most college games
As a small aside, the team owners and mainstream sports writers don't want us to know this because then we will realize what fools we are. A decent seat to see the replacement Cleveland Browns at home costs $252.00. That's for one game -- not season tickets! Do the math to see how many dollars per minute of play you pay. [In fairness, we must say that there are many excellent and concerned coaches who look out for all aspects of their athletes' welfare. However, to some coaches, players and avid fans, sports has become more important than life. We disagree. We think life is more important than death.]
Those who prefer permanent injury and death can always take up the
Pankration, an ancient "no rules to speak of" Greek Olympic combat event
which used boxing gloves with metal studs, among other
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