Parents’ Concerns Spur Changes to Columbia High School Football Program

by The Village Green
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In June, Village Green wrote about middle school parents accusing Columbia High School football coaches of trying to recruit middle school students for the the high school’s team without fully informing them of the dangers associated with the sport – especially the risks of developing CTE, or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. Seven parents signed and sent a letter to South Orange Middle School Principal Lynn Irby and Supt. Dr. John Ramos expressing concern about the “collision sport” and the lack of information given to them and their children.

According to one of those parents, Michael Kasdan, school administrators have responded to the parents’ concerns. Most immediately, South Orange-Maplewood School District Athletic Director Larry Busichio updated the CHS Football webpage to now include resources about CTE, instead of only offering information on cardiac arrests and concussions.

Kasdan said that two CTE activists he has been in contact with, Kimberly Archie and Debra Pyka, believe that this is the first instance of a school responding to parent requests to provide health-related information about CTE in its football program.

Parents expect more to be done by administration in the near future. They believe current preventative practices are lacking and still worry their children could develop the disease: “CTE is a different beast,” Kasdan wrote in a Facebook post. “…[T]here will be more information coming out in the coming weeks about the safety claims made by USA Football regarding its ‘Heads Up’ football tackling programs.”

The “Heads Up” program was funded by the NFL to teach young football players about concussions, proper equipment use, and how to tackle with their “heads up.” But, as stated in the letter written by SOMS parents, critics have still found that “it’s impossible to choreograph heads-up collisions involving children… running full speed at each other.”

The NFL has also been feeling the backlash of critics as their chief medical officer — Dr. Elliot J. Pellman — recently had to leave his job because he allegedly “tried to explain away the dangers of concussions and head trauma.” The New York Times wrote about Dr. Pellman and the recent lawsuits former players are filing for the same lack of information about potential permanent brain damage or diseases.

We will continue to follow this story as the school year, and the football season, begins.

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