President Barack Obama’s “Summit on Concussions,’ suggests another progressive president’s attempt to ‘protect players from injury.’ Theodore Roosevelt hosted a similar summit on October 9th, 1905 at the White House for coaches and other representatives of the top football powers at the time: the teams from Harvard, Princeton and Yale.
TR claimed to love the game because he believed it toughened the men who played it, but he knew things had gotten out of hand.
“Football is on trial,” he told the conference attendees. “Because I believe in the game, I want to do all I can to save it.”
There was no forward pass in those days, and the only way to move the ball down the field was to use brute force, which in that era of minimal protective gear meant that severe injuries occurred regularly. Some wanted to ban the sport.
Retired University of Nevada, Reno President Joe Crowley writes in his 2005 book, ‘In the Arena the NCAA’s First Century,’ “The 18 fatalities and 149 serious injuries of the 1905 season brought critics out in force. Condemnations from the press were plentiful.”
Roosevelt’s intervention didn’t have an immediate effect, but after more prodding by from the president, reforms were accepted in 1906. They included legalizing the forward pass, abolishing mass formations that caused dangerous pile ups, and creating a neutral zone between offense and defense.
One-hundred and eight years later, in August 2013, the National Football League reached a tentative $765 million settlement over concussion-related brain injuries among its 18,000 retired players. This came after a number of high-profile former players sued claiming their neurological problems stem from on-field concussions and that the league hid the known risks.
Earlier in January of the same year, while speaking on the same subject, Obama stated that if he had a son, he’d “have to think long and hard” before letting him play because of the physical toll the game takes. Then last month he took offense when Carl Rove suggested Hillary Clinton had a ‘traumatic brain injury,’ following a fall she took in December 2012.
During his summit, Obama claimed to have played tackle football. While playing he said that he may-or-may-not have been left him with a concussion.
The national media has made a great effort to show how active the President is by providing video and stories of his athletic skills. Since taking office we have learned Obama can swim, golf, ride a bicycle, play basketball, bowl, throw a football and a baseball, shoot a shot-gun and kick a soccer ball.
Yet neither of his autobiographies, ‘Dreams of My Father,’ and ‘Audacity of Hope,’ mention this fact. The only sport Obama claims to have played is basketball on his high school’s varsity team.
But what is being overlooked by the media is a report from the U.S. General Accounting Office, which states traumatic brain injury, (TBI) “has emerged as a leading injury among service members” serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Though it’s hard to know the total number of soldiers dealing with TBIs, the 2011 RAND Corporation’s report, ‘Invisible Wounds of War,’ suggested about 320,000 soldiers have experienced a TBI since October 2001.
Breaking that number down, it’s possible as many as 40,000 U.S. service members have sustained TBI’s while deployed. The RAND Corporation’s report also revealed the absence of care for service members is 57% of those who may have experienced a TBI were never evaluated by a physician for a brain injury.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Inspector General has found 1,700 veterans have been left to wait for care from at least one VA hospital. The scope of the inquiry is widening, with 42 VA medical centers across the country now under investigation for possible abuse of scheduling practices, according to the report.
Note the dichotomy.