Toney Graham

TONEY GRAHAM, 13, freshman with Granite City HS (IL), gasped for air and collapsed at a voluntary workout and died 2 hours later at a hospital on 6/17/15.  At 6’4″ and over 300 pounds, he was already catching the attention of football scouts and was planning to skip freshman football and try out for the varsity team.  Graham was known for his big personality and being the life of the party.  The exact cause of death has yet to be determined, but the coroner found “evidence of cardiac disease,” according to the autopsy. Friends and family created a GoFundMe page to help Graham’s mother pay for his funeral.–“Granite City teen dies suddenly at football practice”, USAtodayhss.com 6/18/15, Casey Nolen, KSDK.  

Letter From a Long-Time Coach

Letter: Don’t let young kids play tackle football 

By Bill Perkins  

It doesn’t surprise me that children 8 to 14 years old want to play tackle football. What surprises me is that any parents allow it.

I love football. I coached high school and college football for 37 years. I’ve seen my share of concussions and traumatic brain injuries (some requiring players to drop out of school to recover); ACL tears and subsequent surgery and nine months or more of painful rehabilitation. I’ve witnessed neck and spinal cord injuries; one resulting in the player becoming a quadriplegic. Other serious injuries included broken femurs, dislocated elbows (both requiring surgery), etc.

These injuries were all tragic. Short term — they were painful and required long rehabilitation. Long term — the effects won’t be known for decades (early dementia, premature knee and hip replacement surgery, etc.).

In all the above cases these were highly trained, well coached, well equipped college or high school players. The pain and suffering as a result of traumatic injury to a college or high school athlete is devastating. I can’t imagine the effect of these types of injuries happening to a child aged 11 to 14.

There are many reasons to not allow young children to play tackle football and few, if any, reasons to allow them to play. Most of the skills kids will need to be compete in high school football can be developed by playing flag football or even just playing anything (soccer, track, basketball, etc.). Blocking and tackling can and should wait until high school when children’s bodies are more mature and resilient and the coaches are well trained, skilled and experienced.

Here is a list of reasons why to not allow kids to play youth tackle football (pre-high school, Pop Warner/Parks and Recreation):

1. Lack of trained and experienced coaches: The highest level of coaching is NFL, next is collegiate, followed by high school and finally youth football. Consider the words of Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter, “Our worst coaches are coaching the most critical position, and that is the 9, 10, 11-year-olds … “

2. Lack of certified training staff at practices: Many, if not most, concussions occur in practice and many are not diagnosed even at the highest levels of coaching. Certified trainers are an integral part of injury treatment and diagnosis as well as prevention.

3. Risk of head and neck trauma: Current research indicates that much of the permanent damage to the brain is the result of repetitive concussion syndrome. The brains of younger children are more vulnerable than when those same children are older and more physically developed. Consider the words of physician Ann McKee, chief neuropathologist at Boston University who explains, “Because a young athlete’s brain is still developing, the effects of a concussion, or even many smaller hits over a season, can be far more detrimental, compared to the head injury of an older player.”

4. Risk of injuries other than concussion: ACL tears requiring surgery and months of rehabilitation. Spinal cord injury and possible loss of mobility as a result.

List of reasons to allow kids to play tackle football prior to high school:

1. I’ll have to think about it and get back to you …

Pre-high school tackle football should be outlawed. I was shocked to learn recently that Bend-La Pine Schools support and sponsor middle school tackle football. Why? Especially when there is no correlation between youth football success and high school football success.

Football is a wonderful sport, but it should be illegal to subject young children to the brutality of tackle football before they are physically ready. It simply isn’t worth the risk.

I encourage all of you and especially the school board and the Bend Park and Recreation leadership to view the documentary, “The United States of Football.”

“Dancing is a contact sport … football is a collision sport.” — Vince Lombardi.

Let ’em play anything and everything except tackle football until they get to high school … please!

— Bill Perkins lives in Bend.

Herschel Walker

HERSCHEL WALKER, 53, running back with Dallas, Minnesota, Philadelphia, and NY Giants, 1986-97, has said that he played Russian Roulette with a gun more than once.  “If you came to my home, and you wanted to challenge me at … anything, I didn’t think you were worthy enough … I would take a bullet, put it in a cylinder, spin it, tell you to pull it … People said, ‘Herschel, you’re nuts.’ [When] they walked away, I’d take that gun, put it to my head and snap it … I was so fired up that I could overcome anything. And I think that’s what it was.  I didn’t realize that it was from … all that anger that I had, that I didn’t like myself.  I was not even happy with who I was.”  He also said he was so mad at a delivery man who was late that he wanted to kill him.  The Heisman Trophy winner then saw a bumper sticker on the delivery truck that said “Jesus Loves You,” and decided to get help.  Walker was diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder (formerly known as multiple personality disorder).  “I talk about it now because there are still people out there today that are suffering.  There’s guys in the league [NFL] that I’ve helped so much, that I’ve saved their lives.”  Walker is a cousin of the late Philadelphia safety Andre Waters, who committed suicide in 2006 at 44 by shooting himself in the head.–“Herschel Walker details struggles with mental health, says he played Russian roulette”, MSN.com 6/18/15, Avery Stone, from an interview on ESPN’s Highly Questionable.

Morris Trent Phipps

MORRIS TRENT PHIPPS, 61, nose guard with Baylor, 1965-70, died on 10/9/09 after suffering from serious depression, Early Onset Alzheimer’s disease, and at death was found to have CTE, the effects of which began to show in 1997.  The coaches thought he was too small but his tenacity, quickness, and strength always earned him his starting position.  The first in his family ever to attend and graduate from college, Phipps was married with 2 sons and worked as a teacher, coach and principal.  Trent’s family misses him greatly and wants people to know the devastation of this disease and asks you to support, in whatever fashion, the research that may some day prevent others from suffering the effects of CTE.–“Morris Trent Phipps Legacy Donor Page”, Sports Legacy Institute.  Memorial by his wife Donna and sons Brett and Garrett.

Mike Jenkins

MIKE JENKINS, 45, tight end with Warren Central HS (IN), 1981-83, suffered multiple concussions, committed suicide on 5/5/11 and was found to have CTE.  Originally a quarterback who began playing football when he was 7, his nickname was “Crash”.  He also played baseball, basketball, swam, and raced motor bikes, always going all out.  He was an ultra-dedicated, loving husband and father to 2 sons, a coach and mentor.  Extremely generous, Jenkins would help anyone in need, and, using CPR, once saved the life of a man who had a heart attack at a NASCAR race.  He also helped the family of a neighbor who was diagnosed with cancer.  Jenkins began to have angry outbursts, became combative at work, struggled with alcoholism, and hated himself for being unable to stop drinking.  His last concussion was in February 2011, caused by slipping on ice.  He was sick with post-concussion symptoms, sometimes had a blank look in his eyes, began to miss his sons’ games, and there was a weekend when he did not get out of bed.  He once spaced out driving his semi and a coworker had to grab the steering wheel to prevent the truck from crossing the center line.  After having dinner together on Easter Sunday 2011, Jenkins couldn’t remember how to get back to his brother’s house, which was located in the neighborhood where they’d grown up.  It was the last day his brother, Rick, saw Mike alive.–“Mike Jenkins Legacy Donor Page”, Sports Legacy Institute.  Memorials from the Jenkins family: mother Marcia, wife Kim, brother Rick, and sons Nick and Kyle.

Dominick Treemarchi

DOMINICK TREEMARCHI, 17, a football player with Central Valley HS (PA), died of a drug overdose on 12/7/14, 2 days before he was to play in a PIAA Class AAA championship game.  He overdosed on prescription anti-anxiety medication and heroin.  Authorities allege that a mother and daughter sold Treemarchi 17 Xanax pills, but they aren’t charged with having caused his death.  However, two 18-year-olds who were with Treemarchi when he overdosed are charged with involuntary manslaughter and other counts in the case.–“Mother, daughter charged in Pa. football star’s OD death”, PennLive.com 6/10/15, John Luciew.

Johnny Holland

JOHNNY HOLLAND, 50, linebacker with Green Bay, 1987-93, was kicked in the head by Michael Irvin on a tackle, felt tingling in his extremities as his legs went numb, and lay motionless on the Texas Stadium turf in a 1993 playoff game versus Dallas.  Holland, who had suffered a herniated disc in his neck and had fusion surgery the previous year, returned to the game in the second half and finished with 11 tackles in a loss. “I wanted to believe in my mind that I wasn’t hurt, that I could still play.”  One wrong hit could’ve confined him to a wheelchair for life. “Oh man,” said Holland. “I was very fortunate I didn’t have a hit in that game to really damage it and, you know, become paralyzed.”  For years, Holland felt “invincible.” All pro athletes do, he said, until they’re not.  For those with career-ending neck injuries it’s particularly excruciating to accept.  Holland spent a full weekend with his brother (and agent) to talk it through and accepted his football mortality.  The transition wasn’t seamless.  It took Holland a full three years to accept he was done. “It’s something you’ve done for 15-20 years.  And then all of a sudden, it’s over.  There’s no more football.  You can’t cross those lines and play again. You can’t put that uniform on again.  It’s a tough, tough moment in your life.”  Holland went on to coach with several NFL teams, including Green Bay, and he’s at peace today.–“Former Packers adjust to life after neck injuries ended their NFL careers”, js.online, Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal-Sentinel, Tyler Dunne 5/31/15.

Brain Healing & Brain Health Info

The website OneHitAway.org linked below has a wealth of information on methods for healing the brain and keeping it healthy.  There is much useful info on how the brain functions, what happens when it is injured, and how to restore it to a healthy state.  Nutrition, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and chiropractic neurology are explained in understandable detail.  There are videos also.  The website and foundation of the same name were started by Darren and Jill Cde Baca, whose son Brett sustained 2 concussions and struggled with symptoms for more than 6 months before being healed (search for his story on this website under Brett Cde Baca).

www.onehitaway.org

Isaac Redman

ISAAC REDMAN, 30, running back with Pittsburgh, 2009-13, retired on 8/22/14 due to a spinal cord injury.  He was diagnosed with a concussion in Week 2 of the 2013 season and was cut after just three games.  After having 2 MRIs and a CAT scan, Redman retired on the advice of Dr Watkins (known for having performed neck surgery on Peyton Manning).–“Isaac Redman retires from NFL due to spinal cord injury”, NFL.com 8/22/14, Kevin Patra.

Troy Aikman

TROY AIKMAN, 48, quarterback with Dallas, 1989-2000, says he suffered 2 severe concussions and about 6 to 8 overall, before retiring because of chronic back problems.  The 3-time Super Bowl champion was put in the hospital from a concussion in the 1994 NFC Championship Game and did not remember the game at all.  He had back surgery before the 2000 season.  Aikman’s brain was tested in the summer of 2013 at the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas, and he tested well.  “It certainly gave me some peace of mind.”  “I don’t have a 10-year-old son,” Aikman says. “If I did, I would not tell him he could not play football.  But I don’t think I would encourage him to play football.”  On 49er Chris Borland’s retirement at 24: “A lot of guys talk about it, but when it comes to making the decision, most players are pushed out.  So for a guy who came on and had a terrific rookie season and a promising career ahead of him, to walk away, I guess it’s admirable that he is looking at his long-term health.”–“Troy Aikman on Concussions, Borland and Broadcasting”, MMQB.SI.com 3/26/15, Peter King.