The tragic death of a football player from Keams Canyon Hopi High and alarming injuries involving Payson players underscore a troubling issue — and the absolutely crucial need for the community to contribute to Payson’s athletic programs.
Roundup sports editor Keith Morris’ careful, alarming examination of the issue in today’s paper should give us all pause. One of the Longhorns’ most admired and conscientious players — Jared Varner — suffered a concussion this year during a crucial game. He passed the initial examination on the sidelines and went back out to play, not surprising given his dedication and fighting spirit. But after a few more body blows, he felt worse. A second sideline examination revealed clear signs of a concussion. Later medical exams showed evidence of bruising in his brain.
Jared was unable to play for the remainder of the season and has reconsidered his plans to play in college.
As the death of the Keams Canyon player demonstrated all too graphically, the outcome could have been far worse. In that case, Charles Youvella was tackled violently in a playoff game. Nonetheless, he kept playing and collapsed after several more plays. He died two days later of a traumatic brain injury.
These chilling local examples highlight the need to provide players with adequate equipment, rigorously refereeing games to minimize dangerous hits and careful supervision on the sidelines. Parents and players alike must pay close attention to the potential risks — and symptoms.
And it’s not just football: Morris’ careful reporting uncovered a rash of concussions this year on the hard-fighting girls and boys soccer teams as well.
The shocking, years-long effort by the National Football League to minimize and deny the risk finally resulted in a $765 million settlement. Nonetheless, the cynical and dismaying cover up as the evidence mounted shows the need for information and awareness.
In Payson, parents and community members provide the money for the $150-per-player helmets through donations and the sports club accounts. That’s worth remembering as the deadline approaches once again for Credit for Kids donations.
We hope that school officials will redouble their effort to make sports as safe as possible — which includes providing enough coaches with the right training to make sure they can spot any possible injury — and train players carefully. We hope also that players won’t try to gut it out and play hurt, thereby hiding crucial symptoms.
Study after study shows that participating in sports provides tremendous benefits to many students. It not only motivates them to stay in school and instills discipline and character — the effects of participation show up in test scores and graduation rates.
Nonetheless, we must also protect our children. And that starts by facing up to the danger and getting the issue out in the open.