Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Good Old Days

Recently there were some energetic conversations online in response to this news:

Delegate Hill is set to propose a bill banning tackle football for children under the age of 14

I’m in full support of this measure. Study after study is showing us the debilitating long-term effects of even mild concussions on growing athletes. This bill doesn’t solve everything that needs to be addressed, but it is a start. Turning the tide against traumatic brain injury has to start somewhere. 

Many of the responses were negative. Amongst the objections to this bill was a particular argument that I’d like to address today. In essence, the objection looks like this:

The state has no right to interfere with my role as a parent to decide whether or not to let my child play football.

My response is that the state has the right to create protections for citizens when there is a preponderance of evidence that there is a public health risk.( Try Googling “sports concussions public health”.)

For example:

Child labor laws
Pure food and drug act
Seat belts and car safety seats

It used to be quite common for children to work in factories to help support the family. Should the state have had the power to intervene? Have we forgotten that children routinely lost fingers and limbs and even died in workplace accidents due to poor working conditions and fatigue from working inhumane shift lengths? Would you shake your fist against the state for taking away your right as a parent to decide whether your child should work under these conditions?

I don’t think so.

I read a short piece (more like a slideshow) this morning about what life was like fifty years ago.  It’s exceptionally relevant here. One hundred children died each year from chicken pox. There were no heart transplants. It made me think about how many things we rely on today are based on scientific research and innovation.

Why do some people draw a circle around football and decide that science does not apply?  They are choosing to apply emotion and nostalgia instead of reason. And there can be no rational discourse under those circumstances. How on earth could any parent put on the armor of righteousness to proclaim,

It’s my choice to subject my child to repetitive brain injury and a lifetime of suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

It is my belief that this is only possible if one uses “feelings” as a guiding principle. And if that is what you insist on doing, I would like to make this request. If you, or your spouse, or your child are diagnosed with a serious illness, I would like you to receive whatever treatment was “state of the art” fifty years ago. Or maybe even whenever you went to high school.

Would you do that? Would you fight for the right to receive identical care to someone in, say, the 1970’s or ‘80s? No? Why not?

You say you’d want to receive the best researched, most innovative, cutting edge, up to date treatment available?

Hmm...Why is that?

Why do I support a bill to limit tackle football in young people? Because we know more now than we did fifty years ago. And, as Maya Angelou said so succinctly:

Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.

We do know better, and we need to start doing something about it to protect our kids.

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