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Another Strike Against Tackle Football

I’ve been about as vocal and supportive of tackle football as anyone the past few years. My son Chase has played tackle football for three years now and the experience was an overwhelmingly positive one. The coaches and the organization he played through took safety very seriously. Sure there were nagging injuries, but for the most part, Chase stayed injury free during his playing time. But it’s not the nagging injuries that scare parents like me. It’s the long-term effects of the game of football. We’ve heard a lot about the severity of concussions and what they can do to the brain. We’ve seen countless NFL players suffer and take their own lives because of the damage that was done to their brain over the course of their career. But now a new threat has cropped up that the NFL needs to study immediately. ALS.

Over the weekend, long time San Francisco 49er’s tight end Dwight Clark confirmed that he has been diagnosed with ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. It is a diagnosis that brings with it a death sentence, as there is no cure. Clark is best remembered for ‘The Catch’ in the 1981 NFC Championship game. He’s hoping that his diagnosis can bring attention to ALS and former football players.

Clark says he isn’t positive that football caused his ALS, but he suspects that it did. He is urging the NFL to study the long-term effects of head injuries and a possible tie to ALS.

Clark’s diagnosis isn’t isolated. He is at least the fifth former player to contract the disease. Former Patriots and Eagles running back Kevin Turner had ALS and died in 2016. Former Saints player Steve Gleason lives with the disease and continues to fight for funding for research. Former Tennessee linebacker Tim Shaw has the disease and leads the fight for a cure. Former Raiders fullback Steve Smtih suffers from ALS as well.

A study in 2012 found that football players were four times more likely to suffer from ALS and Alzheimers than the general public. It’s time to update the study. It’s time for new research fo find all the threats that tackle football poses. The truth might not be pretty, but at least we’ll be armed with the knowledge to make informed decisions on our own. Every fall, parents, including myself, sign their kids up for tackle football knowing the risk of serious injury is possible. It’s part of the game and always will be. But don’t we also deserve all the information on our kid’s brain health too? How many strikes does football get before my son and many others are ‘out’.


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