Do you have one teacher who really made a difference in your life? One teacher who inspired you to follow your love of reading and writing? A teacher who pushed you to be a creative thinker. For me that was, Mr. Roth, my English teacher in high school! I have recently reconnected with him after many years. Read on below to learn about his new novel, GOODNESS FALLS, in this guest post from Mr. Roth!
Ty Roth is the author of SO SHELLY (Random House/Delacorte) and the recently- released GOODNESS FALLS, a novel that traces tragic downfall of a high school football player who suffers from repetitive head trauma. He is a longtime literature and composition teacher on both the high school and collegiate levels and a former high school football coach.
As parents, we constantly struggle to determine what is an acceptable risk for our children. Should I allow my child to swim in the ocean? Should I allow my child to ride the tilt-a-whirl at the fair? Should I allow my child to have a play date at the home of a family newly-arrived in the neighborhood? Should I allow my child to drive to an out-of-town event? The “Should I’s?” with which we are faced are innumerable, and the answers are almost always relative to the personality and maturity of the child and to the particulars of the situation.
One such “Should I?” that has grown increasingly pressing for parents of school-age children is the question of “Should I allow my child to participate in collision sports?” By this categorization, I refer to sports that necessitate contact with an opponent or inanimate object. The American Academy of Pediatrics includes such popular sports as football, rugby, ice hockey, lacrosse, wrestling, soccer and several others in this designation. In my new novel Goodness Falls, the final in a series of concussive injuries sends the protagonist’s world spinning out of control as he desperately attempts to hide the injury, to mask his pain, and to cling to both his halcyon present and promising future.
The arguments in favor of collision sports are many and often compelling; although, they are made most vehemently by those with vested interests in those games. To bolster their support, apologists for them typically cite lessons in character-building (competitiveness, toughness, discipline, etc.) supposedly inherent to playing such sports. Opponents argue that such values can be just as effectively taught through sports that are not only far more risk averse but that also allow for lifelong participation, such as running, tennis, and swimming.
I can’t say I find myself comfortably at home in either camp. I played high school football, two of my sons played football from the Pee Wee level through high school, and I coached varsity in football-mad Ohio for nearly twenty years. Therefore, I understand and can testify to the many benefits of the sport. On the other hand, as a fourteen year-old, I suffered a severe concussion that left me in a state of semi- consciousness for more than an hour; one of my sons experienced a game-ending concussion; and a former player has informed me that he still suffers from frequent migraine headaches that he directly attributes to his days as a high school nose guard.
There are those, like bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell (Tipping Point, Outliers, Blink), who have called for an outright ban on football. Theirs, however, is a quixotic cause that I can understand if not completely stand behind. At the other extreme are the “old school” thinkers who decry any and all rule changes that better protect players as contributing to the “wussification” of the sport and America. I believe the only reasonable stance is to be taken somewhere in the middle, where, as parents and players, we should be provided with all available information on the potential for injury then calculate for ourselves and our children the acceptable risk.
Realistically and at least for now, collision sports, especially football, are too ingrained in the American Way and economy to be easily removed from it. There are, however, several actions that can be taken immediately to improve player safety: 1) we must continue the move being spearheaded by the NFL’s Heads Up program to provide instruction in safer tackling techniques to players and coaches of youth football; 2) we must place limits on the amount of full-contact practice time per week ; 3) we must implement rule changes that error on the side of player safety rather than in favor of fans’ entertainment; 4) we must push for the implementation of mandatory concussion education programs for all coaches, at all levels, and in all fifty states; 5) the medical community must continue to improve the protocol for the identification and treatment of concussions; 6) pre-season baseline testing must be made mandatory at all levels to aid in the diagnosis of concussions; 7) we must advocate for a slow return to action for any player diagnosed with a concussions; and 8) we must be vigilant in denying participation to those who are identified as having suffered multiple concussions, as they are especially susceptible to even more traumatic brain injuries and long term repercussions. If these changes seem too onerous for the sponsors of football programs or for those resistant to change, perhaps the risk of participation does outweigh its benefits.
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