By now you all have to know the game of football is under severe threat at least the way we know it. From the NFL on down sweeping changes have begun as the football collective try and regulate and manage new rules and regulations; and if we are going to fix this we all have a stake. It is not enough to pay the topic lip service and then not act when we need to. Insurance companies are increasingly running for the hills and do not want to cover a sport where litigation is filling up the courts with settlements that are reaching into the Millions. No State in the country is free from pending litigation as student athletes are being hurt more severely then ever and deaths continue.
To save the game we all have to act. Coaches have a huge responsibility as do School Administrators and Trainers. The Standards of Care are far more onerous then they once were. If an athlete shows signs or symptoms of a concussion a chain of events must happen within strict protocols to protect the player or liability begins to accrue and the athlete is at risk.
In my view Fans, Media, and especially Officials now have a huge roll to play. For me I became an activist and advocate in this arena after injuries to my own boys; injuries that happened on and off the field. And it took me a couple of years to realize the damage that had been done and the part I unwittingly played. Those of you coaches and parents that have lived through this same thing are nodding your head. Many of you no doubt suffer or suffered form Post Concussion Syndrome and short and long term effects from those blows you took. Those things in my life and the 2009 death of Andrew Swank on the field in Eastern Washington led me to be very involved and an agent for change. We are very proud of the work we have done at BrainChampions.org and continue to work to protect girls and boys through education and management.
Today I want to talk about High School Football Officials and the Crucial Role they play when it comes to Player safety and Concussion / Traumatic Brain Injury.
As you all know I was at the Holy War Game Friday and it was an absolute slug fest. The hitting that Jesuit and Central Catholic laid on each other was beyond what we normally see and that is due partly due to the charged atmosphere of this Annual affair and partly due to the number of big time players on both teams. The facts are they can really hit. behind by 3 scores the Crusader’s led by FB Joey Alfieri came back in the 4th quarter. Joey carried the ball and about 1/2 of the Central Catholic squad up and down then field as he scored 3 times; at one point taking 14 snaps in a row. It was awe inspiring to watch.
On one of his drives at about the 10 minute mark he broke a run off over the middle, blasted through an official and a pile of defenders, and scored. One the opposing sideline I watched as he got up slow, reached up for his helmet, and staggered off towards his sideline. He did not look 100% and from my view was on the field as they were lining up the PAT. Joey began vomiting and was being comforted by a team mate at first. The Crusaders lined up to kick and he was still on the fields edge.
I heard from my spot on the 15 yard line where I was shooting pictures Head Coach Steve Pyne of Central Catholic shout to the official to slow the play and get the player attended to, checked out, and safely off the field. I alerted the linemen who Pyne was trying to be heard by on my sideline to wait for Alfieri to get off the field.
He spun and looked at me and asked me to be quiet. I told him I was only looking out for the players and that I was a member of the media.
“It is not my job to look out for the medical well being of the player, that’s for the medical staff,” he quipped. “Get a rule book and look it up.”
I was almost tossed out for telling him he was wrong and that I would quote him on that. But I felt I had to say something. Alfieri was removed from the field for a few plays and the official on his side did a great job of making sure the play was halted and that the player was being attended to. Watch the 4th quarter at 10 minutes left here to see what transpired and you will see the official on the Opposite side of the field run across to check after the exchange with me. Thanks to Coach Pyne, Coach Potter at Jesuit, and the officiating crew for looking after the players and Joey. Once the officials did their job the most difficult task of making sure that Joey was ok and the liability and duty to care for him was transferred to the medical staff at Jesuit. He returned a few plays later.
I do however want all Officials in the game of football to know at all levels, especially youth, your role is a vital one.
Officials Do Have a responsibility and it is a fairly big one.
From The Officials Code of Ethics
Officials shall, while enforcing the rules of play, remain aware of the inherent risk
of injury that competition poses to student-athletes. Where appropriate, they shall
inform event management of conditions or situations that appear unreasonably
Officials shall take reasonable steps to educate themselves in the recognition of
emergency conditions that might arise during the course of competition.
And From The OSAA Website-
So the policies are clear. I am not taking the official who took me to task to task but just to ask him to look at the rule books and refresh himself. In the interest of Player safety I have not only a right but an obligation to say something. And so do all of you!
Let’s keep working together to save the game.