Matt Chaney writes a response to a blog post on The Concussion Blog about my visit to the NFL
No, I believe that Goodell and Hallenbeck are sincere about the changes they are making in youth football.
First, the NFL and I were talking about youth football – pre-high school – NOT PRO.
And don’t worry about me being from off the farm. I grew up with a step-father who worked in NYC advertising and I was a PR-Adv Major. I get it. The NFL has a concussion problem so on a different scale so does cheerleading, girls soccer, BMX biking, and so does teen drinking – But guess who offered to get a bunch of bloggers together and talk about it with top experts? Not the liquor companies? And I can hardly get a call back from local soccer leagues.
I have volunteered my time for four years doing concussion education that NO one has really cared about until it was their kid who got hurt. Yeah, not too smart to work without pay, you got me there. But there is no one paying for concussion educators to spread needed info. No drugs companies, no large hospital chains, no one. There is a line in the sand – on one side are the people who think concussions won’t happen to their kids – on the other are those who guessed wrong.
When The NFL asked ME to come to them, I agreed and was given access to people, programs, and executives’ time to share what I thought about my experience with educating parents and kids and coaches. From Roger to Scott to Paul – I met and talked executives whose young kids now play sports. These dads want safer play and they are committed to spend money and time to change youth football and all youth sports. Someone has to lead the way, ANYONE? ANYONE? US Lacrosse has taken great steps for their players and program but we need more help as the scale of kids in youth sports is huge.
Last Friday night, I spoke with my youth speaker, Chris Coyne, to over 500 inner city kids and their families who came out of their depressed, high crime city to the local stadium for a awesome football pep rally (kids, babies, grandparents, and parents). They were such a great crowd and really listened to what we had to say. When I handed out CDC flyers after the event, almost every person thanked us for coming to share info with them.
Did I get paid? No. There is not money in this league for this kind of education. It cost me 6 hours away from my own kids, gas there and back in Friday night I-95 traffic, and I had to spend $100 of my own money to rent a sound system. Worth it? Yes. Do I need help? Yes. I need money to expand. Does what I do matter? Yes, because three kids have already had concussions there, and I hope they will now get appropriate medical care faster knowing what I taught. My real dream is that every team could have an AT on the field, but don’t get me started on that.
I didn’t grow up with football, my kids didn’t play – football is not part of my world – we were a lax family until my son had 7 concussion (only one lax). But what I saw in the stands of that city stadium were loving, devoted caring families who got out of work on a hot Friday night to gather around something they love. It provided their children with great coaches (role models) and an alternative to hanging out in the streets.
So say we ban football as evil and bad for kids – I do not think these kids are going to be playing tennis or sailing or going to sleep away camp. But if I can volunteer my time to make this youth sport experience (which is already pretty entrenched in the USA) as safe as possible for those kids, I am going to go. I also have volunteered my time for the last four years to talk to the inner city lacrosse team and they ran over and called me “the concussion lady.”
But what if someone will help – NFL, an auto part company – I don’t care as long as I believe they are sincere about YOUTH sports. I met fathers at the NFL and looked in their eyes – they are sincere about this. Are the pros someone else’s child? Yes, they deserve their say in court, but back to the kids who are NOW playing youth football as we argue on… we have to start somewhere.
The CDC started producing concussion flyers in 1996 – the year before my son was born. CDC flyers are not making it from their warehouse to your house. And I am trying to be the local distribution system for CT people who don’t know they need this info. It’s a hard sell in a poor economy to ask people to pay for something they don’t think they need.
I don’t judge what people decide to do with their lives – My children do not ride bikes on public roads as it has been my experience that I have lost friends’ lives and various body parts to being hit on bikes by cars. Biking is terrible in my personal experience, but other people seem to love it and ride all over the place with their kids in tow. America is a beautiful place because we can make choices.
We all take risks. What kills me is seeing kids hurt in the concussion clinic every week – in football season and outside football season. The NFL and USA Football showed me that they are sincere about youth football and that is better than the sports who do nothing. Kids get concussions in life. Maybe football is taking the first step that will change the game. I want to be part of the solution and it beats being alone.