Monday, October 10, 2016

Editorial -- In Football, Safety of Kids Must Come First

There was a pretty interesting game at St. Joseph Christian on October 7th between North/West Nodaway and St. Joseph Christian. Everything that could have went wrong during the Muskets’ 52-0 loss to Christian did go wrong. The officials did not show up and the game, which started after 9 pm, was not played with registered officials until late in the first half, when officials from another game finally came and finished it. Naturally, there were plenty of missed calls as a two-man crew consisting of one coach from each team struggled to keep up with the players. Since there was no ambulance present, someone might have gotten seriously hurt. While St. Joseph Christian School is only one mile away from Mosaic Hospital, if a football player is seriously hurt, preventing serious or permanent injury or even death could be a matter of minutes or even seconds.

A few years ago, there was a player from Tipton (MO) who was fatally injured at a football game. Ever since then, there have been calls for the MSHSAA to adopt a rule requiring that each school have an ambulance at home games. Currently, guidelines state that schools should either have an ambulance at the field or communicate contingency plans to visiting schools. The MSHSAA has not adopted a full-fledged rule, citing cost for certain member schools to secure ambulance services. But they should talk to member schools and consider such a rule. Players are getting bigger, quicker, and more physical every year. In eight man competition, the level of play is getting stronger every year; whereas, Worth County used to have only a few tough games on their schedule, nearly every game is now challenging. Newcomers North Shelby and Braymer have taken their lumps, although King City has found some success and Greenfield is undefeated this year after barely making it through the season two years ago.

When an athlete is hurt, carrying them off in a golf cart is not the best solution because moving someone who is hurt without good reason can make the injury even worse. Emergency services workers are people who are properly trained in how to move someone who is injured without making it worse. While there is frequently someone there who knows how to give first aid, there is no guarantee without an ambulance present.

There have been growing concerns about football and the safety of athletes from the NFL on down. Some former NFL players have had to deal with the after-effects of concussions for the rest of their lives, and the fact that they made millions of dollars does not make it any easier. Many have had a reduced quality of life and/or premature death because of repeated head injuries.

We do not know who was at fault for the fiasco, but if the host school knows there are no officials, the game should be canceled or postponed until they can hire officials. If the officials don’t show up because they double booked, the host school should either contact officials at a nearby game to come do the game or cancel the game. Most officials in that situation are more than willing to help in that kind of scenario.

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