WDEL Blog: Allan Loudell

New evidence of concussions in youth sports: Will Delaware - or America - ever change?

I've noted in this space before how I believe Delaware schools are too sports-obssessed. We're more like Texas than Minnesota, and I do not consider that a good thing!

I've posted how academic extra-curricular activities are correlated with higher student achievement, but how after-school sports generally kills academic extra-curriculars. Even costly elite schools such as Tower Hill - by requiring kids to take part in after-school sports (so Tower Hill can get away with not scheduling P.E. during the day) - produce a chilling effect on nearly everything else after school. It's insidious, and it frankly amazes me that so many parents buy into this.

Furthermore, as U.S. presidents and governors over the years have grappled with U.S. academic underachivement, they keep ignoring the obvious: How the popular culture typically undermines respect for high academic achievers (except on CBS's "Big Bang Theory"), and I would add -- how adulation of competitive sports does the same.

What I haven't covered so much (although WDEL's Al Mascitti has) are the physical consequences of fiercely competitive after-school sports, beginning with football. As Al has frequently voiced on the air upstate, it's frankly amazing that taxpayers, in effect, subsidize an activity (football) which is so dangerous - literally - to young brains.

This Wednesday, a new report from the Committee on Sports-Related Concussions in Youth, affiliated with the National Academy of Sciences. The report acknowledges the crying need for additional data, but the bottom line is clear: Concerns about concussions in young people are justified. The degree to which such injuries affect student athletes later in life remains to be determined. Concussions are NOT limited just to football players. "Limited evidence" exists that current helmet designs reduce the risks of concussions (Although such headgear may reduce the risk for other injuries.) Finally, surveys show student athletes put the fortunes of the game and their team ABOVE their personal health and safety, and they may play through a concussion to avoid letting-down teammates, coaches, schools, and parents.


Hear my interview with Dr. Neha Raukar, specializing in primary care sports medicine; Assistant Professor: Director, The Division of Sports Medicine, the Department of Emergency Medicine; Consulting Physician, Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island...

Audio Here

From U.S.A. TODAY:


Now my admittedly audacious proposal: Shouldn't Catholic and other religious schools take the lead in de-emphasizing this modern idolatry of sports, particularly football? Would any dare?

Posted at 3:07pm on October 30, 2013 by Allan Loudell

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Comments on this post:

Wed, Oct 30, 2013 5:28pm
Sorry Allan, but everybody who lives is in risk of death. A lot more people are killed and maimed in automobile accidents, but are we going to return to horse and buggy in order to reduce the risk? You already know the answer to that, and the same goes for playing football.

Thu, Oct 31, 2013 9:34am
There needs to be a balance. Yes, you can be hurt while playing sports. Reasonable care is required. But on the other side of the argument, there is a very real effort to stop boys from being boys. As the nanny state attempts to take over more of our lives, they want our boys to become more feminine. Prevent them from playing rough games, including recess games such as dodge ball. Add to this the fact that girls can play football, particularly as kickers.

You cannot build a child’s courage and confidence by placing that child in a protective bubble.

Thu, Oct 31, 2013 1:25pm
JimH: Well that's about the most sexist thing I've read today. Congratulations!

Why does "boys being boys" mean they have to be rough-and-tumble hurting each other? I'm a fairly productive member of society. Married, with kids. Involved at my church and the kids' school. And never once played an organized sport. Just wasn't my thing. Hated gym class. Tended to not play anything "rougher" than tag at recess. Was I somehow less of a boy -- am I now somehow less of a man -- because I didn't "play rough games"?

You forcing "boys to be boys" and keeping girls from playing "boy games" is no better than the "nanny state" preventing dodge ball. Cuts both ways.

Allan Loudell
Thu, Oct 31, 2013 2:58pm
To mr. pizza---

Sure, any human activity (or inactivity) incurs a risk of injury or death.

I presume you would agree automotive travel is more essential than competitive high school athletics, particularly when the sports program overshadows the rest of the school.

Furthermore, we can take steps to at least insulate motorists and passengers from serious injury and/or death. Over the years: Seatbelts, airbags, additional warning devices, and of course, enforcement of laws against DUI and distracted driving.

As this study notes, helmets don't seem to protect very much against concussions. Worse, student athletes who ARE injured face powerful social forces to get back INTO the game.

Sorry, Mr. Pizza, but I find an incredible moral disconnect when I sense passions for sports, particularly football, go off the top in the Sunbelt (or "Bible Belt") to the point of idolatry. If Karl Marx were alive today, he'd probably replace the word "religion" with "sports" in his famous observation, "Religion is the opiate of the masses".

In our own area, we saw how the establishment of a very competitive sports program outmuscled all other considerations at Red Lion Christian Academy.

Jim H -- Why does "stopping boys from being boys" imply a physical situation? (To me, it even implies a tolerance of disrespect for rules, bullying, etc.) I would argue it's that very mentality which drags down academic achievement in America. Some of you have passionately argued religious questions on this blog. What kind of ethic is it when society condones "might makes right"? Yes, let's build a child's courage and confidence by making that child an intellectual warrior! Why does it always have to be physical?

To Shawn -- I substantially agree. I admit, however, to having participated in basketball in the middle grades! (Unfortunately, a hernia attack and surgery sidelined me.)

A couple of things none of you have brought up: Competitive sports represents a revenue producer for many colleges, and perhaps some high schools. Just wait until litigation from victims of past concussions alters the financial calculations. One sees the headlights of that train coming down the track! (Don't misunderstand. I deplore the litigiousness of American society as well!)

Finally, none of you has even tried to refute my point that excessive emphasis on competitive after-school sports is crippling academic extra-curricular activities in Delaware, and participation in academic extra-curricular activities strongly correlates with high achievement in school...

We don't need batteries of exams dictated by Washington or Dover (and the accompanying exam industry and additional administrators); we need academic activities which demonstrate the relevance of what's covered in classrooms.

Allan Loudell

Thu, Oct 31, 2013 3:45pm
Allan - I assume you're referring to JimH and mrpizza... I didn't try to refute your point because I agree whole-heartedly. Even back in the 80s, my Catholic grade school had very few creative and academic after-school activities, but they sure had sports. Which, of course, meant that I didn't participate in any after-school activities. I always felt like I was missing out on something, never sticking around for anything after school. But there wasn't anything for me to do. Then suddenly in 6th grade, we put together teams for academic bowl and the Science Olympiad. Hey, here's something I can do! And I enjoyed it all immensely! I wonder what my elementary years would have been like if those kinds of additional academic opportunities had been around.

By the way, your info about Tower Hill mandating after school sports to get out of scheduling PE? I hadn't heard about that, and deplore the idea! Thank God I didn't have the money to consider sending my kids there!

Thu, Oct 31, 2013 6:54pm
Allan: I will agree with you on the Marx thing. Yes, sports, especially NASCAR, has become a religion more popular than Jesus Christ, to quote John Lennon in a statement he made about his rock group. The worship of sports is ridiculous especially when you don't dare go to a stadium wearing an opposing team's jersey because you fear getting your brains beat out by a band of thugs. Of course, all you have to do is deliver pizza to have that happen).

Even so, I'm still a casual sports fan, and enjoy watching it on TV. In fact, I was born a St. Louis Cardinals fan and am disappointed they didn't win the World Series. But at least they got there.

Fri, Nov 1, 2013 9:26am
I agree, “organized" sports have gone to the extreme end of the spectrum but also think that schools are failing our children by getting rid of P.E. classes.

Physical Education is important for the physical development of our next generation... far too few students have any physical activity inside/outside of school... and then we wonder how "kids these days" became obese.

Due to the extremely high costs related to college and higher education, too many parents think that if their kids excel at sports they will get a "free ride" in college. And, too many kids/parents (especially in poorer inner-cities) think that the only way to “make it” is through sports… especially basketball and football.

We need well-rounded children/students, but education should be priority number one...since education is the main reason school exists. Organized sports are good for some, but not all, students...though all can benefit from a basic P.E. class for a little exercise and learning basics about sports. P.E. class can also teach the “bookworms” how to work with others in an environment that is outside their “comfort zone”.

I would also add that more "real world" tech-type/hands-on curriculum needs to be added to regular school programs. Some kids excel in typical scholastic academics, some excel in sports and others excel in hands-on "creative" environments of learning.

There is no one-size-fits-all, but we definitely need to stop this insane drive to have "the best" sports team and largest stadium at the cost of education (THE purpose of school) and at the cost of students' health.

Allan Loudell
Fri, Nov 1, 2013 10:15am
Mr. Grey---

I agree with you about P.E. As I said, some schools try to get around having to schedule P.E. during the regular school day (ostensibly to allow time for an additional academic course or a study hall) by requiring all students to participate in an after-school, competitive sport, which - in turn - decimates academic extra-curricular activities.

And the tragedy of scholarships: Over the years, I've read that some academic or other scholarships get few takers, while everyone's after the sports-driven scholarships. Tragic!

Allan Loudell

Sun, Nov 3, 2013 11:39pm
While I agree that sports has become almost a substitute for real education, I think getting rid of it would go against everything this nation was founded upon. As long as people who want to play sports are made aware of the risks, they should still be allowed to pursue it if it's their idea of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

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