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AOL's Kevin Blackistone on Football Hits, Young Players & Safety

The Minnesota Vikings’ Brett Favre after a hit to the chin during an NFL game, Oct. 31, 2010. (AP)

As the controversy over hard hits and new safety precautions continues at the NFL level, there is also increasing scrutiny at the lower levels of football, where younger players may be even more vulnerable.

On Point took a hard look recently at the NFL debate — link here to the show audio — with three former NFL players, as well as AOL Fanhouse national columnist Kevin Blackistone and a prominent medical researcher.

After his appearance with us, Blackistone followed up with a column calling for stricter measures for younger players who suffer head injuries. “A good precaution for the youngest group of players who suffer a concussion,” Blackistone writes, “may be simply to call it a season.” We’ll excerpt a bit from his article below, and here’s the link to the full article:

Dr. Ann McKee, the Boston University School of Medicine expert on football and brain injuries, said Monday on a radio program I participated in that medical science suspects of concussions on the football field what most of us are certain of intuitively:

“Is it more dangerous for a 13-year-old to experience these hits than a 25-year-old?” she asked on National Public Radio’s On Point hosted by Tom Ashbrook from Boston’s WBUR. “We think that the earlier in life that you experience these hits, the more detrimental they are.”

[I]f medical science believes younger brains are more susceptible to catastrophic injury, it might be time to consider a measure for young players as severe as boxers who sustain knockouts. Don’t let them play again for 60 or 90 days. Don’t wait for historically very low mortality rates for young football players to rise. Act now.

After all, youth players have not only the most at stake when it comes to their health, but the least reward to be gained from chancing it.

They are still growing. Their minds are still developing. Yet, they are playing at most for a scholarship to bang their heads some more at the college level into other survivors of high school football who are a little bigger, stronger and faster. It is only if they escape more choreographed violence, while excelling at it, that they may be granted an opportunity to make a living playing football.

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Dick West (Dr. Walter Richard West, Wah-pah-nah-yah or Wapah Nahya, Light Foot Runner), 1912−1996, Southern Cheyenne, Oklahoma. Cheyenne Sun Dance—The Third Day, 1949. Paper, casein, 24 5/8 x 35 1/8 inches. © 2013 Philbrook Museum of Art, Inc., Museum purchase, 1949.20, Photo: John Lamberton.

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