I woke up this morning to the sound of my phone’s alarm. The night before I had set my alarm to go off at approximately 5.30am with R.Kelly’s song - Ignition being the alarm. I have to admit, it is one of the better alarm sounds that I have woken up to, and the good thing is, it does not annoy the hell out of me like some other alarms that are just a cacophony of sounds, and quite frankly are a huge contributing factor to ruining my day…
Anyways, back to the topic at hand. I had gotten out of bed, rather reluctantly I must add, and remembered that my laundry was still in the dryer downstairs from the previous night. So I put on my flip-flops and grabbed the two bags of clean laundry beside my bed, that I was too lazy to empty the week before, and began to make the long but determined descent to the laundry room.
After I had spent a good 10 minutes packing my dry laundry, I made my way up again to my room, and this time went to the bathroom to wash off the sleep from my face and to rid myself of my morning breath. Once this was done, I sat down by my computer, which I had switched on earlier, and opened up my facebook account. This is my daily routine.
After I had spent about 10-15 minutes just browsing through facebook, I went on to open up my yahoomail account. I read a few emails, and then logged out. But then something caught my eye. It was a news article concerning the death of a 16 year old by the name of Ridge Barden. He died whilst participating in a football game.
Ridge Barden was a 16 year old who played football at his Phoenix High School in New York. The article reports that this young man collapsed on the field after he told his peers he was suffering from headaches. Not long before, he was tackled and was still recovering from it when he suddenly collapsed. His parents stood at the sideline, horrified at what had just occurred whilst Ridge’s team did their best to rush him as fast as they could to the hospital. It was too late, for Ridge Barden was pronounced dead on arrival.
According to the source, the hospital had not yet released an autopsy report but was confident that Ridge died from internal bleeding in his brain probably due to “blunt force trauma” sustained when he was tackled.
It is a sad and tragic story that reveals to us how fragile life really is. Here was this budding teenager so full of promise and energy, but it took only one unfortunate incident on the football field to take his life away.
Ridge’s family are still trying to come to terms with the loss of their son. Although it is a tragic moment for their family, Ridge’s mother assured her son’s football team that it was not their fault nor was it the fault of the opposing team.
Football is a contact sport and the dangers associated with it will always exist. People who play this sport are well aware of the type of injuries one can sustain if (1) they play carelessly, (2) if they are not physically fit and (3) if they don’t play by the rules. However, despite these reasons, one cannot rule out the fact that Ridge’s death did not come about as the result of any of the three reasons mentioned. So the question is, should youth football be banned to avoid further major injuries and possibly future deaths from occurring? Why ask a question like this you might wonder? Well, firstly, if the human body is still not fully developed to sustain the amount of force and trauma experienced during a contact sport like football, wouldn’t it make sense to disallow teenagers from playing until they have reached a certain age where their bodies are fully matured and physically fit to sustain those types of injuries? It is an unfortunate thing for someone’s life to be unnecessarily lost during a game, especially if they are at a young age and still have their lives ahead of them.
The number of traumatic brain injuries sustained in sports and recreational activities in U.S High Schools amount to 21 percent. Of this figure, about 28 percent are of football players (http://www.sportssafety.org/sports-injury-facts/). This is an alarming figure!!
Recently, another sport has come to mind that has been dubbed the most brutal and roughest sport in the world - Rugby. Rugby earns it reputation due to the fact that players don’t wear protective gear like football players do, and apply the same amount of, or more, hits to the opposition (http://www.worldsultimate.net/most-dangerous-sports.htm). As noted by the website : “The world’s most roughest and brutal contact sport has the least protective gear. This is regarded as the maximum injury prone game. The vicious tackling produces far more broken bones, torn muscles and concussions than even marshal arts. The totally absorbed players don’t stop till exhausted by injuries.”
However, focusing again on high school football, one might ask what measures have been taken to prevent serious injuries from occurring frequently in contact sports. The good news is, there are measures in existence. Measures, such as the Concussion Awareness Management Act enacted by the state of New York, have been taken to reduce the amount of serious injuries caused in football.
I recall filling out a form in my freshman year that is a general requirement for anyone wanting to participate in college sports. I was trying out for the college rowing team and I remember being asked “if I had any past head injuries?”. It was focused specifically on concussion injuries that are most common in contact sports but are not excluded from other sports as well such as baseball and athletics etc.
So the question is not really if we should ban contact sports such as football from being carried out in High Schools in the country , but rather “what more should we do to increase the safety of players in a particular sport at any given time’? Injuries happen all the time and if we look at Ridge’s case, he did not suffer from any previous head injuries, but his death was purely caused by injuries to his head. This means that the Concussion Awareness Management Act and many other acts similar to it in the U.S focus only on players already experiencing head injuries and fails to give attention to the well-being of those players who are injury-free.
All Sports are hazardous whether they may be contact free or not, and I think once we acknowledge this then can we be able to find, create and implement measures that protects the well being of all players and not discriminate against injured players only. For all sports, my only concern is that every player should be mindful of the possibilities of sustaining injuries - whether it be minor or serious. If they are well educated on the type of injuries that can be sustained, hopefully they will be able to prepare themselves in every possible way before actually participating.
This may not be a perfect solution and fatalities may still occur, as seen in Ridge Barden’s case, but atleast players will know and understand the risks in certain sports.
As for banning youths from participating in sports that have proven to be dangerous, I think it’s up to the youths to decide that - but I also think that the authorities of the day have a huge responsibility in providing the most accurate information on sports related injuries and ways that they can be avoided.